Starting radiation – what to expect
When starting radiation therapy, plan to arrive ten minutes before your scheduled appointment time with a comfortably full bladder. You may drive yourself to and from the radiation center. Check-in at the front desk and be seated.
When you are called back, a radiation therapist will show you to a changing room, and asked to change into scrub bottom pants. You will also be asked to confirm your name and date of birth before each treatment.
In the treatment room you will lie down on the treatment couch. You will be asked to remain still and breathe normally. The therapist will adjust your positioning and move you as needed. The Radiation Oncologist will review and approve your treatment set up each day, from a television console that is located outside the radiation room. You will not feel anything while you are on the table. When the radiation is on, you may hear a humming noise from the treatment machine. The radiation therapist will observe you during the entire treatment period.
You may go to the restroom immediately after treatment. In the changing room you will change back into your street clothes and return the next day. Remember to leave your locker key in the changing room. You will be given a calendar with all future appointment dates and times for the entire course of treatment.
Starting radiation – preparation
There is no special diet for radiation therapy to the prostate. We recommend a heart healthy diet that is low in fat and processed foods. Most men should consume a 2000 calorie diet per day. Lean protein sources and green vegetables are excellent choices. If your bladder becomes irritated during radiation, we can offer you a list of foods that are bladder friendly, called the “Bladder Friendly Diet”. You may consume alcohol but limit intake to one beer or one glass of wine per day. Be aware that alcohol may irritate your bladder.
There are no restrictions on exercise on physical activity specifically because of radiation. In fact, we encourage you to have a regular exercise program that includes cardiovascular and weight resistance exercises. Exercises that strengthen the core are important for pelvic floor muscles. A regular exercise regimen is especially important for patients on hormonal deprivation therapy.
You can ask your Radiation Oncologist for an exercise prescription if needed. An exercise prescription is a list of goals to accomplish with an exercise program. As exercise needs are based on personal limitations and conditioning levels, we do not give a list of exercises but encourage you to join a gym that offers educational classes or personal training. Please ask for information about the YMCA/Livestrong program that offers free or reduced cost classes for patient with cancer.
Stop supplemental antioxidants
Radiation therapy is based on an oxidative process, and consuming antioxidants could work against the therapy. You should stop taking all supplemental antioxidants including multivitamins and fish oil. You may continue taking Vitamin D and Calcium. Dietary antioxidants from fresh fruit and vegetables are acceptable to eat.
Keep your bladder full and the rectum empty
Start training your bladder to hold more urine. The fuller your bladder is before each radiation treatment, the fewer side effects you may experience. The bladder is like other muscles and benefits from being challenged. Periodically you should urinate then hold the urine for at least 1.5 hours before voiding again. Also, staying hydrated throughout the day and on weekends will help keep your bladder full before radiation treatments. It is important to keep your bladder full for each treatment so that the radiation therapy is consistent and accurate.
Hormone therapy and radiation
If you are on Androgen Deprivation “Hormonal Therapy” with medication injections like Lupron or Firmagon, you should take Vitamin D and Calcium to keep your bones healthy and strong. Vitamin D and Calcium are available over-the-counter. We recommend Calcium 1200 mg and Vitamin D 400 IU. If you have difficulty swallowing, ask your pharmacist for chewable forms.
If you have questions before starting radiation, contact the Austin Center for Radiation Oncology.