My radiation mask is too tight....what can I do

JohnVon Member Posts: 25 Member
edited January 25 in Head and Neck Cancer #1

Hello I'm so glad I found this site. I have head and neck cancer and I'm currently getting radiation treatments. Two weeks in and my mask has become extremely tight....especially choking me and crushing my already sore adam's apple. It's excruciating and I just can't endure it anymore. My oncologist cut a hole next to my adam's apple but it hasn't helped at all. My oncologist also said it would take three weeks to make a new mask and didn't sound excited about the prospect. I have gained 15 lbs back since being fitted for the mask. I lost 25 lbs after three surgeries. This no doubt hasn't helped. The mask pressure and pain to my swollen adam's apple is so bad I don't think I can endure it for another 5 weeks yet another treatment. Does anyone have any advice please?


  • wbcgaruss
    wbcgaruss Member Posts: 1,973 Member
    edited December 2022 #2

    John, sorry you are having issues with this.

    If they trimmed your mask ask them to check it again to be sure the area is relieved and if not maybe they can trim a little more.

    I too had a mask issue after my parotid gland got infected and swelled up making my mask tight. Same thing they don't want to make a new mask because your whole treatment plan has to be looked over then and thus setting back and interrupting ongoing treatment. Once they start they want to do the whole course of treatments without interruption. They wouldn't trim my mask saying they could not the way it was is the best they could do. They didn't want it ill-fitting and thus not effective and accurate rads. I was in the hospital with this infection at the time and was transported back and forth to the radiation facility to continue my treatments during my hospital stay while receiving antibiotics for the parotid infection. I got upset every time they put the mask on as I felt I had a breathing issue but I don't think I did looking back it was just the tighter mask. What got me through was they gave me a shot of something to calm me before the treatments at the hospital before being transferred. Ask for Ativan or some kind of calming med, talk to your docs.

    This helped but what really got me through it was getting through the first treatment was a technician there a little bit older than the others that lovingly but assertively talked me through getting the mask on and calming me down and letting me know that there is not a new mask or easy fix and realizing that I had to tough my way through this swelling situation.

    I owe her my life it got me through the treatment.

    Important also I recommend you pray before you go for strength and ability to do this procedure. Prayer is powerful.

    Do your best, once you get that first treatment in and you will be ok. Set your mind determined before you go in and let the techs know you need all the help and support you can get and I am sure you will get it. I have found that radiation techs are some of the most caring compassionate people in the world.

    Have the docs prescribe a sedative to get you through this at least for a bit.


    Sedatives are drugs that are used to help with pain and nervousness. They may be given before surgery begins to help you feel calmer. While in surgery, you will continue to get this medication. You will be awake if not also under anesthesia. Sedatives may be given intravenously, in pill form, or inhaled through a mask.8

    Start eating much less in a hurry and drop some weight for now if you can and you can pick it up later.

    I hope this helps.

    Wishing You the Best

    Take care, God Bless-Russ

  • motorcycleguy
    motorcycleguy Member Posts: 477 Member


    My advice is that your Oncology team is there to help YOU, through this process. So, definitely communicate any concerns you have with your mask, or anything else.

    Another lesson I learned was to ALWAYS make sure that treatment, dates and times are agreed upon and well understood by both your team and yourself. Never hesitate to ask - if things don't seem completely clear to you.

    I feel most medical professionals do their best to help, but they are also busy people - and a couple reminders and clarifications can help a lot of situations.

    I wish you the best of luck in your treatment!


  • Quiet
    Quiet Member Posts: 13 Member

    Best thing you can do is let your team know. I am guessing they can cut mask more. That should be doable.

    Mask isn’t fun.

  • steven59
    steven59 Member Posts: 89 Member

    I've got some swelling/tenderness in my throat and the last couple treatments have been difficult, not to the extreme you're going thru as i'm just feeling tightness. I initially asked the tech if they could cut around the adams apple and was told no. I bought a pair of hand exercise grips and asked my Dr for help with the pain. If you can ask your radiologist maybe he/she could find a way to modify your mask just enough to make the treatment bearable. Squeaky Wheel. I also was still a bit thin from surgery when fitted but I only added 5 lbs. I know how you feel right now, I don't think anything could have prepared me for the post surgery pain only to find out the radiation side effects will be as bad or worse. I have 2 friends, not close but friends the same that are on the other side cancer free and back to their normal lives.

  • JohnVon
    JohnVon Member Posts: 25 Member

    Thank you all for your great advice. My radiation techs are leaving one snap off and it has helped a lot. My doc prescribed ativan but only .5 mg which doesn't help at all. I'm hoping he will give me an effective dose. I hope everyone has a healthy New Year

  • bonneville64
    bonneville64 Member Posts: 3 Member

    I made sure I kept my eyes closed during my 33 treatments. The mask was pressing down on my Adams apple during the last 10 sessions. Very uncomfortable, however I just concentrated on my breathing and said a few prayers each and every time. (Also was taking clonazepam regularly) Good luck to you.

  • steven59
    steven59 Member Posts: 89 Member

    i was wearing a new flannel shirt i got after xmas and the collar was enough to make fitting the mask near impossible. I had to take the shirt off to get thru the treatment.