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External Radiation Therapy


External radiation therapy is a treatment that uses radiation (x-ray energy) to kill cancer cells. Radiation is a strong beam of x-ray energy that passes through organs and healthy tissue to reach tumors. External radiation therapy is used to shrink the tumor or kill the cancer cells. It may also be used to decrease symptoms caused by the tumor. External radiation therapy may be combined with other treatments such as medicine, chemotherapy, or surgery.


Follow up with your oncologist as directed:

You may need to return every day for several weeks. You will need to see your oncologist for tests or ongoing treatment. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Skin care:

External beam radiation therapy may make your skin red, dry, bleed, or peel. Care for your skin by doing the following:

  • Use a mild shampoo.
  • Carefully wash the wound with a mild soap. Gently rinse with water. Do not scrub. Pat your skin dry. Do not rub your skin.
  • Do not soak in a bath for a long time. This can make your skin drier.
  • Ask what type of lotion or cream is best to use on your skin.


  • Drink liquids as directed: Ask how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you. You will also need to replace fluid if you are vomiting or have diarrhea from cancer treatments.
  • Eat healthy foods: Healthy foods include fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads, low-fat dairy products, beans, lean meats, and fish. Several small meals a day may be easier to eat than a few large meals.

Contact your oncologist if:

  • You cannot make it to your next treatment on time.
  • You have a fever.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • You have sudden chest pain or shortness of breath.
  • You have trouble seeing, talking, thinking, or remembering.
  • You have severe headaches, or you have a seizure.

Ā© Copyright IBM Corporation 2018 Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotesĀ® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or IBM Watson Health

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Learn more about External Radiation Therapy (Discharge Care)

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