What you need to know before you begin radiation for breast cancer.
Non-Medical Advice from a Breast Cancer Survivor
Breast Cancer Radiation Treatments, the name alone, is intimidating enough, but the thought of a large, strange machine pointing and shooting radiation into my body made me cringe. I half expected to glow like some science fiction movie character or for my skin to look like a charred piece of bacon by the end of my treatments.
Neither of those things happened, of course.
But, while receiving radiation treatments wasn’t a “walk in the park,” it wasn’t nearly as dreadful as I imagined.
So, if you’re feeling nervous, concerned, or downright terrified about your upcoming radiation therapy for breast cancer, these tips can ease your mind and help you feel your best during treatments.
Follow Your Radiation Oncologist’s Instructions
Your radiation oncologist should provide you with lots of information and instructions before starting radiation therapy. The most important thing you can do is follow all these instructions precisely. They’re essential to your treatment and healing.
And, if you have any questions or concerns about what to expect or what you need to do, be sure to ask your radiation oncology team.
It’s a good idea to have a list of questions ready for your oncologist before each appointment. Also, make notes of your doctor’s answers to those questions.
Do Not “Google” Radiation Images
My first and possibly most significant advice is: Don’t “Google” radiation images. I did, and many were gruesome. Please don’t do it! The pictures shown are always the most extreme cases.
Just as with chemotherapy, each patient reacts differently to treatment and every person’s treatment plan is different. Radiation treatment plans differ and are based on factors such as the stage, lumpectomy or mastectomy, the amount of lymph nodes affected, and how close the tumor was to the skin.
Your oncologist will know that, so don’t Google the questions. Ask your doctor for recommendations specifically for your care.
And, then follow your doctor’s instructions and take excellent care of yourself. The more you do that, the better you will feel!
So, as my grandmother always said, “don’t borrow trouble.” Don’t look up images of radiation on the internet. It will only cause you to worry and be fearful.
How to Take Care of Your Skin During Radiation Treatments
(This post may contain affiliate links and we may earn compensation when you click on the links at no additional cost to you. See disclosure policy for more information.)
Imagine going to the beach and getting a light sunburn. You do this for five consecutive days and then take a two-day break. You repeat this cycle for another week and then another for as many days as prescribed by your doctor. Initually you don’t feel much discomfort, but you will become a little more tender/sore as your treatments continue. That is how the radiation felt to me and others I know.
So, the good news is that you don’t become sore or hurt on the first day of treatments. It will take several treatments that occurs.
And just as using sunscreen helps prevent your skin from burning, using the moisturizers your doctor suggests will help protect and take care of your skin.
Taking care of your skin is the most important thing you can do for yourself during radiation treatments.
I began moisturizing my skin a couple of weeks before my radiation treatments started, per my doctor’s instructions. Your radiation team will give you suggestions on what products to use and when to use them. My doctor suggested Carrasyn Gel and Gold Bond Healing lotion, which worked well for me. But, I have friends who used other products that worked well for them. So, be sure to ask your doctor which one they recommend.
Whatever lotion you use, apply it liberally morning, noon, and night. The healthier your skin remains during this process, the better you will feel.
My Favorite Product for Radiation Treatments
The one product I think everyone should use if they are going through radiation treatments for breasts cancer is the Lindi Cool Roll.
Radiation can make your skin feel hot (like a sunburn). The Lindi Cool roll is a 4″ x60″ roll (looks like a big slippery fruit roll-up 😉) you store in your refrigerator. It’s infused with aloe and green tea extract, and provides instant cooling relief. You just cut off the size you need and apply it to the “hot” burning area. It provides instant cooling, pain relief!
My cousin first told me about the Lindi Cool Roll, and I’m so glad she did. Now, I tell everyone I meet, going through radiation treatments about the Lindi Cool Rool. I can’t imagine going through treatments without it.
To use, cut off the amount you need to cover your radiated skin. (To use the strip more than once, pop the used strip in a ziplock bag and stick it back into the refrigerator.) Each “cut piece” lasts two to three times before it dries out, so one roll goes a long way.
The Lindi Cool Roll is worth every penny! You will want to have this on hand during your radiation treatments.
The Best Clothing to Wear During Radiation Treatments
Before you begin treatments, make sure you have a lightweight, comfortable, wire-free bra or bralette. Get one with clasps, or even better, one that opens in the front. Don’t use the pull-over-your-head type. They are difficult and uncomfortable to put on during this time.
The one that I particularly like zips in the front and fits comfortably. Or as comfortable as a bra can be. If you’re like I was, you’ll only wear one when you have to during this time.
If you don’t have loose-fitting, soft, comfortable shirts, now is the time to get these. You won’t want anything scratchy touching you. I walked around the stores touching all the fabrics looking for the softest shirts. The $5.00 t-shirts I found on clearance in Walmart’s sleepwear department ended up being my favorites to wear around the house. I also claimed every soft, worn-out t-shirt my husband had.
I need to mention that I applied the lotion so thick it stained a couple of my shirts. I also noticed that black shirts don’t show stains as much as white and other colors did. So, don’t spend a lot of money on the shirts you will wear during your treatments, and don’t plan on wearing your good shirts during this time.
Take Extra Good Care of Yourself During Radiation Treatments
Just as you’ve been doing throughout your breast cancer treatments, continue to take extra good care of yourself during this time.
Eat healthy foods and drink plenty of water. Your skin needs to stay exceptionally hydrated during this time.
As with chemotherapy, radiation treatments can make you feel fatigued. So it’s essential to get plenty of rest during this time.
It’s also important to get enough sleep. I know it can be challenging to sleep when you’re uncomfortable from the treatments, so please talk with your doctor if you’re having trouble sleeping. They may be able to provide you with solutions.
You can also check this link for some practical tips to make sleeping easier.
So don’t fear or dread radiation treatments. By following your doctor’s precise orders and taking care of yourself, you can minimize radiation treatment discomforts and side effects.
8 Things You Need to Do During Your Breast Cancer Radiation Treatments
- Moisturize, moisturize, and then moisturize some more!
- Use the Lindi Cool Roll when your skin feels “sunburn” hot.
- Wear soft, comfortable clothes that won’t feel scratchy on your skin.
- Drink lots of water.
- Eat healthy foods.
- Limit or alleviate stress as best you can.
- Get plenty of rest.
- Get Plenty of Sleep.
And remember, this is only for a little while. With each treatment, you are getting better. It may not feel like it, but the radiation is killing those cancer cells and advancing your healing process. You can do this!
Thank you for sharing your insight.
Trying to decide between lumpectomy with radiation or mastectomy. I’m 43.
My question is about shrinkage. Did you experience shrinkage in your breast or skin tightening that lifted the breast?
Thanks for commenting. I didn’t experience shrinkage or skin tightening, even though I was warned that I might. I do experience times when areas under my skin or on nipple feel tighter or harder than usual. According to my physical therapist, its scar tissue. She told me to massage the spots that are hard so it will break down the scar tissue and soften the area back to normal. It works. I rarely experience this now but the first year or so, it happened often. I hope that makes sense and helps you.
Choosing between lumpectomy and radiation or a mastectomy is such a difficult decision. Praying for wisdom and peace as you make the tough decisions, and comfort and healing as you begin your treatment.
And, please feel free to email or message me anytime. 💗🙏
Thank you for your insight and advise on dealing with radiation treatment. I’m having a partial mastectomy in two days and will have radiation sometime after that. I feel blessed that it was found so early, but that’s not easing my jitters at all. I’ve always been relatively healthy, so the C word has really thrown me for a loop. I wake up every day with that in my mind, I have breast cancer. I just want it to be over.
I will save your blog and refer back to it as time goes on.
Hi Debbie. Thanks for commenting. I am praying your surgery and treatments go well. Feel free to message me on FB or email me anytime. I would love to know how you’re doing. 💗🙏
This is the most informative and reasonable post I’ve read so far. I am 2 weeks post double complete mastectomy and will be having radiation as soon as I heal. Thank you for this post, it really put my mind at ease!
I was just diagnosed about a month ago, and I am 16 years old. It’s been a pretty emotional roller coaster! I will most likely be starting the radiation treatment and this really helped me get a better understanding!
I’m so sorry you are having to go through this at such a young age. It is a emotional roller coaster for sure. I’m praying for peace, strength and healing for you during this journey.
Kimberly Mendez says
THANK YOU!!! I was just diagnosed on my bday little over a week ago… thus far, plans are for lumpectomy with radiation so this helps SO much!! God Bless You!
As a mother of 7 boys who just turned 41… hearing this news has been such a whirlwind! But my Faith is stronger than my fear and with Jesus, this spiritual battle will be won! Having the blessing of these posts and pins have been amazingly helpful and another reason I am choosing to be so open about my diagnosis and journey! So that my testimony can help someone else and make a difference!!!
A cancer diagnosis is so NOT what you want on your birthday! But, I know the Lord has great plans for you and will use this journey to reach others. My motto is “My story for His glory!” Your story is going to show His glory to others!
I’m praying for you and your family during this time and hope you will keep in touch and let me know how your are. You can reach me by email or FB messenger any time!
Lindy Russell says
I start my radiation mapping on Monday. Stage one. Lobular invasive breast cancer. Lymph nodes clear. Partial mastectomy on April 7 th. Will have five year drug therapy after radiation is complete. Questions: Is hair loss associated with radiation on the breast tissue. Nervous about the MRI. Does the entire body enter the tube? Thank you, frighteningly time in my life.
Praying that your radiation goes well. I didn’t experience hair loss during radiation except in my armpit. None of my friends have either. But, that’s just my personal experience. Your radiation oncologist can give you more information on whether you will experience hair loss. MRI’s can be nerve wracking and a bit noisy but they aren’t bad.
Thank you for sharing your insight and information it’s very helpful. Recently diagnosed with breast cancer radiation is part of my treatment plan and very anxious about it all.
Christine, praying for you as you begin your treatments. Please email or message me on Facebook anytime. I’d love to know how you are doing. ❤ 🙏
Thank you for your advise and insight, it does bring a little relief, however still ver anxious about the whole process, I will have to look and see if I can get the Lindi roll here, or see if there is a similar alternative, thank you again for sharing your experience, it is apprected, hope you are doing better and we’ll 😊
Hi Aneska, I’m glad my post helped but I know it’s still scary. I just checked the Lindi Skin site and due to manufacturing problems, the cooler roll and cooler pad are still backordered. Here’s the direct link to their site so you can keep an eye out for when they become available. https://lindiskin.com/products/lindi-skin-cooler-roll Hopefully they’ll be back in stock soon.
Praying your radiation treatment goes well. ❤ 🙏
The Linda Cool Roll is not available with Amazon. I’ll continue to look. Thank you for your information and I was excited that it was current. I start treatment in a few days. I feel very lucky that I was stage 1 in December and starting radiation in March.
Hi Sherrie. Thanks for letting me know. I checked and unfortunately like other businesses across the country, Lindi Skin is having manufacturing issues. They are sold out right now, but here is a link to their website so you can keep an eye out for when it becomes available. Hopefully they will have more before March and your radiation begins.
Alicia Lipinski says
Thank you for sharing your insight. Just going on Tuesday to radiation oncologist. But am certainly anxious about it all and the long-term effects. Thank you for easing my mind to some degree.
Thanks Alicia. I’m praying your radiation treatments go well. Please email me or message me on Facebook anytime. I’d love to hear how you are doing. 🙂
I really enjoyed reading your advice on radiation. I have a little better insight on what to expect. I start sometime in March, I’m just ready to get this part behind me. Thank you sharing your experience.
Hi Teresa. I’m so glad you found this post helpful. Thanks for letting me know. I’m praying your radiation treatments go smoothly and that before you know it, you’ll be finished with them and on your way to recovery. 🙂