My radiation treatments for Breast Cancer will soon be over. I had 28 regular radiation treatments and now will have 5 boosts to the scar area of my mastectomy. My treatment was on the left side of my body. My experience through Radiation was better than I had imagined. I am so grateful for this. It is time consuming because you have to go to the hospital or clinic on a 5 day a week basis, but it truly flies by. Plus, I had amazing Radiation Technicians. They always put me at ease, told me getting tired was for older people,(since I am in my 50s this made me feel good) and explained every procedure that was done to me.
My skin got red and itchy, but nothing like the horror stories I imagined. More like a day at the beach and you forgot your sunscreen on more than one occasion. Of course, I slathered and lathered potions and lotions on it. Damage to my lungs and or heart was another major concern. So far so good. And 6 weeks into it, I am still wearing a bra.
Here are my recommendations for Radiation and Breast Cancer:
1. Buy at least two 100% cotton tank tops. I laundered them only in hot water as I didn’t want irritation from laundry soap. Each day, I put the tank top next to my skin. I then put on a 100% cotton sports bra in a size larger than what I wear, and inserted my foam boob (did not wear regular prosthesis) between the tank and the bra. The cotton tank helped with any irritation. It has been great!
2. I had all kinds of lotions, but the two that helped me the most were Calendula Ointment (I know sell this in my shop at www.hellocourage.com ), Hydrocortisone Creme which helped with itching and rash and Miaderm for radiation burns. The other things I had caused me to itch late in the game (Aloe, Calendula Creme). My Radiology Oncologist said that happens so just use the Hydrocortisone Creme. I did and it worked. The Miaderm helped the redness and burning the last two weeks of Radiation.
Put these cremes on at least 4 times per day – immediately after treatment and 3 other times spaced throughout the day.
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3) For bath soap, I used Dr. Bronner’s Organic Bar Soap for babies. I would lather my hands and just lightly wash the radiated area as to not cause irritation. I had absolutely no trouble with this soap and probably will continue to use it.
4) It is necessary that you stay out of the sun during radiation. That was challenging since I am in the middle of summer, but I did it. If I had to be in the sun I wore a hat, covered up with clothing, and wore sunscreen on any areas that were exposed.
5) No swimming in chlorine pools or lakes during Radiation Treatment. The chlorine is too drying to the skin, and swimming in lakes can cause infection. My Radiology Oncologist said wait at least 2 weeks after treatment. If my skin has no open sores or blisters, go ahead and swim.
6) During Radiation to the breast area can put you at risk for pneumonia or pneumonitis. One thing I did to help my lungs was to use one of those small, plastic breathing machines called a spirometer. They always give you those when you are in the hospital to prevent pneumonia. I found my lung capacity did shrink during Rads, so this helped me deep breathe and expand my lungs. Mine is called a Voldyne 2500. You can find one on ebay for under $10.00. You should use them 15 minutes a day twice per day. If you don’t get one of these, at least do deep breathing exercises.
7) If you have Lymphedema or are at risk for it because of lymph node removal, see if your hospital provides lymphatic massage or see a lymphedema specialist. I was fortunate to have both during Radiation Treatments. It helped keep my Lymphedema arm under control and the massage helped the radiated areas be more supple and less like fried, crisp bacon.
8) Do exercise stretches of the affected area several times a day. My arm and breast area were particularly tight in the morning. The first thing I did upon waking was do stretching exercises. This will help you in the long haul, and help you feel less pain.
9) I really was fortunate and wasn’t that tired during Radiation. I may have gone to bed a little earlier, but it was nothing like Chemo Fatigue for me. Chemo Fatigue was debilitating. Radiation Fatigue was not. If you are tired, rest. You are still in the middle of cancer treatment. Your body has been through so much. If it cries out for rest, do it!