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Brain radiation - discharge

Alternate Names

Radiation - brain - discharge

What to Expect When You're Home

When you have radiation treatment for cancer, your body goes through some changes.

Two weeks after radiation treatment starts, you might have changes in your skin. Your skin and mouth may turn red, your skin might start to peel or get dark, or your skin may itch.

Most of these symptoms will go away after your treatments have stopped. Your hair will begin to fall out about 2 weeks after radiation treatment starts. It may not grow back.

Skin and Hair Care

Do not remove the colored markings on your skin. These show where to aim the radiation. If they come off, do not redraw them. Tell your doctor if they come off.

Hair care

  • For the first 2 weeks of treatment, wash your hair once a week with a gentle shampoo.
  • After 2 weeks, use only warm water on your hair and scalp -- without shampoo.
  • Dry gently with a towel.
  • Do not use a hair dryer.

If you wear a wig or toupee:

  • Be sure the lining does not bother your scalp.
  • Wear it only a few hours a day while you are getting radiation treatments and right after treatment has ended.
  • Ask your doctor when you can start to wear it more.

Skin care of the treatment area:

  • Wash gently with lukewarm water only. Do not scrub your skin. Pat dry, instead of rubbing dry.
  • Do NOT use soaps. Do not use lotions, ointments, makeup, or perfumed powders or other perfumed products on this area. Ask your doctor what is okay to use.
  • Do not scratch or rub your skin.

Ask your doctor for medicine if your scalp gets very dry and flaky or if it gets red or tanned. Tell your doctor or nurse if you have any break or opening in your skin.

Stay out of the sun, even when your treatments are done.

  • Wear a hat or scarf.
  • Talk with your doctor or nurse about using sun-blocking lotions.

Do not put heating pads or ice bags on the treatment.

Do not put heating pads or ice bags on the treatment area. Keep the treated area in the open air as much as possible. But, stay away from very hot or cold temperatures and direct sun.

Do not swim during treatment. Ask your doctor when you can start swimming after treatment.

Self-care

You need to eat enough protein and calories to keep your weight up. See also: Eating extra calories when you are sick - adults

Ask your doctor about liquid food supplements. These can help you get enough calories.

Do not eat sugary snacks that may cause tooth decay.

Most people who get radiation treatment begin to feel tired after a few days. If you feel tired:

  • Do not try to do too much in a day. You probably will not be able to do everything you are used to doing.
  • Try to get more sleep at night. Rest during the day when you can.
  • Take a few weeks off work, or work less.

You may be taking a medicine called dexamethasone (Decadron) while you are getting radiation to the brain.

  • It may make you more hungry, cause leg swelling or cramps, or cause changes in your mood.
  • These side effects will go away after you start taking less medicine, or when you stop taking the medicine.

Follow-up Care

Your doctor may check your blood counts regularly, especially if the radiation treatment area on your body is large.

References

Sharma RA, Vallis KA, McKenna WG. Basics of radiation therapy. In: Abeloff MD, Armitage JO, Niederhuber JE, Kastan MB, McKenna WG, eds. Abeloff’s Clinical Oncology. 4th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2008:chap 29.

Deangelis LM. Tumors of the Central Nervous System and Intracranial Hypertension and Hypotension In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 195.

Perry MC. Approach to the patient with cancer. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 182.

Updated: 5/5/2012

LinLinda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington; and Yi-Bin Chen, MD, Leukemia/Bone Marrow Transplant Program, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.


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