Being a caregiver to someone you care about with cancer can strengthen your relationship, but the journey can also be harrowing. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and disjointed, but asking questions, organizing a network of caregivers and using online tools can help you gain back a sense of control.
No question is a dumb question in this situation, so if you have concerns don’t be afraid to address them with the care team. Start by asking the doctor and nurses about what to expect from the disease and treatment.
Cancer treatment generally follows a specific schedule. For example, most radiation therapy is given outside the body with daily treatments for a period of weeks allowing the treatment dose to build up to eliminate the cancer.
During this time, side effects from the treatments build up too, so you’ll want to know how the radiated area will change your loved one’s skin and how to protect the treatment area from sunlight and chafing.
Sometimes radiation is given internally, by mouth or into the veins. Internal radiation therapy (IRT) typically occurs with people being treated for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma or thyroid cancer, although it may be used to treat head, neck, breast, uterus, cervix, prostate, gall bladder, esophagus, eye and lung cancers.
IRT may be administered alone or along with external radiation treatments.
Caring for a person undergoing IRT can be tricky. You will get a list of precautions that can include good hand washing, washing linens and clothes of the patient separately, double-flushing toilet wastes and avoiding close contact with children, pregnant women or pets who may be more at risk for harm from low dose radiation.
The medical staff will alert you to other safety measures needed if the patient is receiving high-dose therapy.
With IRT, the patient will give off radiation while the radiation source is in place, according to the National Cancer Institute.
Brachytherapy is one type of IRT in which the radiation source is a solid implant placed inside the body, in or near the cancer cells for a period of time and then removed.