Radiation to the Brain
What you need to know
As it works to rid your body of cancer cells, radiation therapy
can cause side effects in the treated area. Most side effects
begin after two or three weeks of treatment. Report any side
effects you experience to your radiation oncology team. This
card provides information about how to minimize and treat
side effects.Neurological Effects
Radiation therapy to the brain can cause side effects. The following
are symptoms of these side effects and what you can do to make
you feel better:• Please report the following symptoms to the radiation oncology
staff: dizziness, lightheadedness, loss of balance, weakness in
your arms or legs, difficulty with speech, changes in your vision,
nausea, vomiting, headaches that don’t go away with Tylenol,
• You may be prescribed a medication called Decadron
(Dexamethasone). It’s important that you take this as prescribed.
This medication is taken to reduce side effects of radiation. If
you’re vomiting or unable to take the medication, notify your
radiation oncologist immediately. You should take an acid-
reducing medication such as Prilosec or Prevacid at bedtime as
Your skin may become irritated in the area where the treatments
are given. Below are some measures you can take to care for your
skin. You will lose the hair on your head from the treatments. Hair
loss usually occurs after the third week of treatment. Usually, your
hair will grow back slowly, starting within a few months after your
treatment is completed. Here’s how to care for your skin in the treated area: • Use non-deodorant, non-oiled, mild soap such as Ivory, unscented
Dove or Basis. Gently cleanse (don’t scrub) the treatment area
• Shampoo your hair with a mild, non-medicated shampoo.
• Wear a hat, wig or scarf to cover your head to protect against sun
• Apply the cream recommended by your radiation nurse or
physician to the skin around your ears and forehead once a day
initially. If your skin becomes dry or irritated, you may use the
cream two to four times per day. Don’t apply the cream within
• You’ll be sensitive to sunburn in the treated area, so don’t expose
that skin to the sun. After you’ve completed your treatment and
your skin has healed, you may expose it to sun, but use a sunblock
of SPF 30 or higher and reapply it frequently. Your skin may be
sensitive to sunburn in the treated area for up to a year after
• Skin irritation can start as a pinkness, tanning or rash on the skin
and can progress to red, hot, dry, itchy or peeling skin.
• Don’t use harsh chemicals on your hair such as hair dye.
• Don’t use heat sources such as a curling iron or hot dryer settings.Fatigue
During the last few weeks of your treatment, you may experience
some generalized fatigue. It should not interfere with your normal
activities, although you may feel more tired than usual and need
additional rest. Try these strategies to fight fatigue: • Balance activity with rest. If you feel tired, take a brief nap, if
possible, or put your feet up briefly, then resume your activity.
• Drink six to eight, eight-ounce glasses of non-caffeinated
• Stay active. Walking is a non-stressful activity that may
Good nutrition is important. Try to eat three balanced meals each
day. Don’t try to diet or lose weight during treatment and don’t skip
meals. If you lose weight, a nurse will discuss your diet with you.
If you need guidance about what makes a balanced meal, please
discuss this with a nurse. You may take a multivitamin but do not take vitamin E or vitamin C
While you’re undergoing radiation therapy,
pregnancy is not advised. If you’re not sure if you’re pregnant or
think you might be, please report this to your radiation therapy
Questions? Ask Us.
Remember: Report any side effects to the Radiation Oncology staff.
If you have concerns or questions, please ask them during your
treatment appointment. If you need to speak with someone urgently,
please call: • Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Radiation Oncology Center at 314-251-6844
• After hours, to reach a physician call 314-663-3011
David C. Pratt Cancer Center Radiation Oncology
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