Radiotherapy: Head and Neck

Information for Radiotherapy Patients: Head and Neck
The information in this guide is designed to explain what your treatment will consist of and the most common side effects of your treatment. The doctors and nurses in the Radiotherapy Department will give you further information. Please feel free to ask all the questions you need to.

  • Special instructions for during radiotherapy
    You will be fitted for a radiotherapy mask that will ensure your head and neck are held in exactly the right position during treatment. The mask is made of a soft and pliable (thermoplastic) material and is a painless procedure.
  • Going to the dentist and looking after your mouth and teeth are important during and after treatment.
  • If you wear dentures, you should take them out while the mask is fitted and during treatment.
  • Men should shave only with an electric shaver and avoid lotions before and after shaving.
  • You may experience throat or mouth irritation or pain after two or three weeks of treatment. Rinse your mouth and gargle with unsweetened camomile tea before and after eating and as often as you wish. Your doctor or nusre may prescribe something to relieve the pain if needed.
  • Many things can irritate mouth and throat tissue and may increase the severity of the side effects of treatment. Try to avoid the following:
    • Smoking
    • Alcohol
    • Soft drinks
    • Fruit juices high in acid
    • Rough or coarse foods
    • Spicy foods
    • Very hot or very cold drinks
    • Very hot food
    • Commercial mouthwashes
  • It is important to maintain your weight during treatment. Eat five or six times a day and include protein-rich foods like meat, milky drinks, eggs and cheese. You will be weighed during your weekly appointment.
  • When you begin treatment, you may lose your sense of taste for a while. Your saliva may become thicker due to the effects of radiation on the salivary glands. If your mouth is very dry, add sauces, juices or other liquids to your meals to make swallowing easier. Sipping water frequently can help to moisten your mouth. With the advice of your doctor, you may use artificial saliva to moisten your mouth. It may be between three and six months after completing radiotherapy before you recover your sense of taste or normal saliva production.
  • Follow your nutritionist's instructions.

Special instructions for after radiotherapy
On completion of your radiotherapy treatment, we recommend you follow these instructions:

  • Stop smoking and reduce your alcohol consumption.
  • Avoid foods that are salty, high in acid or too hot or cold until your throat and mouth are fully healed.
  • Take care with your oral hygiene and gargle with unsweetened camomile tea.
  • Men should continue using an electric shaver and avoid the use of lotions before and after shaving until the skin has fully recovered.
  • Avoid wearing dentures when possible and use them only when eating. Have your dentures checked six months after completing your treatment to make sure they fit correctly.
  • In the case that you need to have a tooth extracted or require dental treatment, consult your radiotherapist.
  • If you notice any new symptoms after completing your treatment - ganglions, ulcers or anything else unusual, contact your radiotherapist.