Abdominal radiation - discharge

When you have radiation treatment for cancer, your body goes through some changes.

Two weeks after radiation treatment starts, you might have changes in your skin. Your skin and mouth may turn red. Your skin might start to peel or get dark. Your skin may itch.

Most of these symptoms will go away after your treatments have stopped.

Your body hair will fall out after about 2 weeks, but ONLY in the area being treated. When your hair grows back, it may be different than before.

Diarrhea, cramping in your belly, and upset stomach may start around the second or third week after radiation treatments start.

Skin Care

When you have radiation treatment, a health care provider draws colored markings on your skin. Do not remove them. These show where to aim the radiation. If they come off, do not redraw them. Tell your doctor instead. These must stay there until your treatments are done.

Take care of the treatment area:

  • Wash gently with lukewarm water only. Do not scrub. Pat your skin dry.
  • Do NOT use soap on this area. Do not use lotions, ointments, makeup, perfumed powders or products on this area. Ask your doctor what you should use.
  • Keep the area that is being treated out of the direct sun.
  • Do not scratch or rub your skin.

Tell your doctor or nurse if you have any break or opening in your skin. Do not put heating pads or ice bags on the treatment area.


Wear loose-fitting clothing around your stomach and pelvis

Most people who get radiation treatments begin to feel tired after a few weeks. If you feel tired:

  • Do not try to do too much. You probably will not be able to do everything you used to.
  • Try to get more sleep at night. Rest during the day when you can.
  • Take a few weeks off work, or work less.

Ask your doctor before taking any drugs or other remedies for an upset stomach.

If your stomach feels upset just before your treatment:

  • Try a bland snack, such as toast or crackers and apple juice, before your treatment.
  • Try to relax before your treatment. Reading a book, writing letters, or doing a crossword puzzle may help.

If your stomach is upset right after radiation treatment:

  • Do not eat for four hours before your treatment.
  • Wait 1 to 2 hours after your treatment before eating again.
  • Your doctor may prescribe medicines to help.

Some tips to help an upset stomach:

  • Stay on the special diet that your doctor or dietitian may recommend for you.
  • Eat small meals, and eat more often during the day.
  • Eat and drink slowly.
  • Do not eat foods that are fried or are high in fat.
  • Drink cool liquids between meals.
  • Choose foods with a mild odor, or eat foods that are cool or at room temperature, instead of warm or hot. Cooler foods will smell less.
  • Try a clear liquid diet, such as tea, broth, and juices.
  • Eat bland food, such as dry toast and Jell-O.

Some tips to help with diarrhea:

  • Try a clear liquid diet -- water, weak tea, apple juice, peach nectar, clear broth, and plain Jell-O.
  • Do not eat raw fruits and vegetables and other high-fiber foods, coffee, beans, cabbage, whole grain breads and cereals, sweets, and spicy foods.
  • Eat and drink slowly.
  • Do not eat milk and other dairy products if they bother your bowels.
  • When the diarrhea starts to improve, try eating small amounts of low-fiber foods, such as white rice, bananas, applesauce, mashed potatoes, low-fat cottage cheese, and dry toast.
  • You need foods that are high in potassium (bananas, potatoes, and apricots) when you have diarrhea.

You need to eat enough protein and calories to keep your weight up.

See also: Eating extra calories when you are sick - adults

Alternate Names

Radiation - abdomen - discharge


Sharma RA, Vallis KA, McKenna WG. Basics of radiation therapy. In: Abeloff MD, Armitage JO, Niederhuber JE, Kastan MB, McKenna WG, eds. Abeloff’s Clinical Oncology. 4th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2008:chap 29.

Czito BG, Willett CG. Radiation injury. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger & Fordtran’s Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2010:chap 39.

Update Date: 10/30/2008

Updated by: Yi-Bin Chen, MD, Leukemia/Bone Marrow Transplant Program, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.


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