Lymphomas and radiation

Lymphoma Side Effects

Managing side effects of radiation therapy

The side effects of radiation therapy depend on where the radiation is aimed. They tend to be more intense if radiation and chemotherapy are given together. Radiation given to several areas of the body, especially after chemotherapy, can lower blood cell counts and increase the risk of infections, but the side effects often go away shortly after treatment is finished.
Measures that you can take to minimize these side effects are listed below:

  • Skin Care

    It is okay to bathe or shower daily with a mild soap. Wash the treatment area gently. Do not scrub the skin. (If you have ink marks on your skin, please do not wash them off.) Gently pat the skin dry.

    During the course of your radiation therapy treatments, we ask that you put nothing on the skin in the treatment area except for the products recommended by the physician or nurse. Use moisturizers for dryness and over the counter hydrocortisone cream for itch. Apply products twice daily or as needed. We do not want the skin “greasy” when you come in for treatment. Underarm deodorant without aluminum may be used.

    Avoid the use of hot or cold in the treatment area. This includes the use of heating pads, hot packs, hot water bottles, ice packs and ice bags. It is okay to use an electric blanket. Avoid the use of tape or Band-Aids in the treatment area.

  • Sun Exposure

    During treatment, avoid exposing the skin in the treatment area to direct sunlight or tanning beds. If you plan on being in the sun for an extended period of time, cover the skin with clothing or broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or greater. Once radiation treatments are completed the skin in the treatment area will always be more sensitive to the sun and tanning beds.

  • Fatigue

    Loss of energy is a common side effect of radiation therapy. Endurance, stamina, concentration, and motivation may all be decreased as a result of fatigue. Conserve your energy and rest when you need to. Eat a well-balanced diet and stay well-hydrated by drinking plenty of water. Exercise such as walking or yoga can improve your energy. Respect your body’s limitations – if you hurt while exercising, stop.

  • Nutrition

    It is important to eat well during radiation to aid the body in recovery and restore strength. We suggest a diet high in protein and healthy fats, and use of nutritional supplements such as Boost or Ensure or a similar generic product. Even if you are overweight, we recommend maintaining your weight and preventing weight loss during treatment. You may need to eat small meals or snacks every 2-3 hours rather than eating large meals. It is not unusual to have a decreased appetite during treatment, but you will need to focus on getting enough food daily. Meeting with a dietician is helpful. If you need a referral, let your nurse know.

  • Duration

    Side effects may worsen the final week of treatment and the week after radiation treatments are completed. Most of these side effects gradually subside within 4-8 weeks after treatment. Please call our office if you have any questions at any time during or after your radiation treatments.

For questions to ask your provider, see our FAQ page.