Radiation Therapy: Your Daily Life

Man and woman outside, walking dog.
Regular walking can help control some side effects.
Radiation therapy can help you in your fight against cancer. To feel better during treatment, get plenty of rest, exercise, and eat well. This will give your body the extra strength it needs right now. Also, look to family and friends for support and comfort.

Family and friends

You will decide when you feel comfortable talking openly about your cancer. Friends and family can be a great source of comfort. Or, you may find it more helpful talking to a counselor at first. People will be willing to help when they learn how you feel. Ask for help when you need it, and accept help when people offer it.

Work and daily activities

Most side effects of radiation are limited to the area being treatment. Because of this, many people can work and do other regular daily activities during their therapy. But each person's experience with treatment can vary. Ask your healthcare provider if you can expect to work during your radiation therapy.

If you are also having chemotherapy, the combination of both treatments may cause fatigue or a drop in blood counts and you may feel too tired to work or do some daily activities. Talk with your employer about adjusting your schedule or working from home. In some cases, your blood counts may be too low to be safely around lots of people, due to risk of infection. If this happens, your healthcare provider will tell you when and how to protect yourself.


Exercise may help you sleep better and control some side effects. Exercise when you have the most energy. Don’t push yourself. Instead of jogging, take a walk or ride a stationary bike.


Fatigue may affect your desire to have sex. Radiation therapy to the pelvis may affect the sexual organs. Talk to your partner and your radiation therapy team. During this time:

  • If you don’t feel like having sex, explore other ways to be close, such as hugging, cuddling, and talking.

  • Radiation therapy to the pelvis can cause permanent infertility. If you plan to have children in the future, talk to your healthcare provider before starting treatment.

  • If you want to have sex, go ahead. A water-based lubricant may help. During radiation treatment (and during chemotherapy), be sure to take steps to prevent pregnancy. This is because cancer treatments can cause birth defects in babies.

Will treatment make me radioactive?

This depends on the type of treatment:

  • External radiation therapy. This is a type of X-ray therapy. X-ray therapy of any kind will not make you radioactive. You don’t have to worry about being physically close to friends or family members, including young children or babies.

  • Internal radiation therapy. This means that radioactive material is put into your body. Your healthcare team will tell you if you will be radioactive. They will tell you what you need to do to protect other people. Make sure to talk with your healthcare team about any concerns and questions.  

© 2000-2021 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
Powered by Krames Patient Education - A Product of StayWell