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Creams/Lotions/ Underwear/Wardrobe for Pelvic Radiation?

Posts: 471
Joined: Feb 2011

Due to start external pelvic radiation this week,
I was advised by an integrative doctor that calendula cream, applied after each session and before bedtime, would help to diminish radiation burns. So I am off to find it.

Online I see others extolling different products that soothed their burning skin.

Yet the radiation nurses at my cancer center advisel me not to use anything "until you develop symptoms." Then, I am told, they will prescribe some lotion for any open or oozing sores that develop in the vaginal region.

Merely HEARING that this area will become so inflamed from external radiation upset my day; I'd thought it was just our lower abdomens that would suffer.

Do your own oncological staffs seem to wait until there are serious symptoms to offer any treatment advice rather than suggesting preventive measures?

Would like to hear about any ointments, creams or other measures anyone took that helped to ease burning from external radiation.

No one, for instance, has advised me what kind of underwear will be best, what kind of soap I should use to bathe, or whether I can use any cream or gel on the external genital region (obviously, you' d have to be careful here) to try to prevent dreaded burning in that region.

Shouldn't treatment centers discuss such concerns BEFORE we start treatment? The "radiation orientation" covered none of these subjects, just the general effects of radiation.

As i need to start radiation this week, need some advice!
Is there, for example, an ideal "radiation wardrobe"? (Diahrrhea I can imagine lends itself to skirts, not slacks, for quick rushes to bathroom. And if our skin is burning, would the ideal clothing for warmer weather be a loose cotton knit dress? (No way i can picture fiddling with drawstrings on my slacks as I rush to bathrooms!) And has any genius created panties without elastic waistbands?


norma2's picture
Posts: 486
Joined: Aug 2009

I think you are smart to prepare yourself ahead of time. I found it helpful to have some moist wipes (there are many available) with me at all times. The hypoallergenic no perfume kind worked best for me. My bottom suffered the most during this time. I had no burns on m skin and now a year later you cannot tell I had pelvic radiation, except for the tiny tattoo marks. I think I can tell you every bathroom at MD Anderson in Houston. Even thought of writing a guide for them with a commentary.

Hated it when everyone would tell me that symptoms were different for each person. Darn it!! It turned out that statment was so true. One thing is universal is the fact that we all are fighting this thing. Each of us has a unique perspective. I think sharing those experiences makes it a little easier for the people who come after us. Fear of the unknown makes things worse. Knowledge and experience make that fear bearable.

Here is to you, my dear. Praying for you to have few side effects and a very positive outcome.

lkchapman's picture
Posts: 106
Joined: Jan 2011

Hi Rosey,
I received extended field pelvic radiation and vaginal brachy and I didn't experience any real burning skin or open sores. Pelvic radiation is usually not as intense as that given for say breast cancer, as an example. The only problem I had aside from diarrhea was an asymptomatic vaginal candida infection that was diagnosed by my rad-onc doctor through an examination. I would go with your nurse's advice because the creams might actually exacerbate the problem.
I hope all goes well.
Best wishes.

lindaprocopio's picture
Posts: 2022
Joined: Oct 2008

Are you having the standard 5-days-a-week, 25 to 28 pelvic radiation treatments many of us get adjuvantly during our initial treatment protocol? If so, there's a MUCH better chance that you will have no real skin problems than there is that you will have them. My skin didn't even turn pink and certainly no sores, so hopefully you will have the same easy time. I think they prefer that you have no lotion or creams on your skin during the actual radiation treatment. I gently patted on perfume-free lotion when I got home and washed it off before I went again.

As for wardrobe, I LOVE yoga pants for all of my treatments and scans, as they are soft and stretchy and have no metal or buttons, etc. Underneath I just wear no-wedgie Hanes. Because my butt is no longer something I willingly display to the world in stretchy pants, I have a collection of long tunic-length buttonless cardigans (most on that Travel-Allure fabric that doesn't wrinkle, but some in other soft knits) that cover my butt. Underneath I layer V-neck tees that allow my port to be assessible.

I did use the witch-hazel wipes during radiation (like Tucks but larger CVS brand), but the tender skin was from the loose bowels rather than the radiation itself.

TiggersDoBounce's picture
Posts: 413
Joined: Oct 2009


Ditto to what the others have shared. I had no issues with skin burning...just prepare yourself for the bowel symptoms. It typically does not happen right away, but kicked in for me around week 3. I too know the bathroom everywhere I went and still need to.

Sending thoughts and prayers your way...it seems like a long haul..but getting through this is easier if you take it week by week...

Stay in touch and let us know how you are doing!


kkstef's picture
Posts: 706
Joined: May 2008


I had 30 pelvic treatments and I never experienced red, painful skin or any skin breakdown. I did use no fragrance lotion on my skin after the treatment but nothing special. I didn't wear any different under garments that I always wore.

As others said....it is the bowel changes that cause the most difficulty.

You will do fine! Hang in there!


Ro10's picture
Posts: 1579
Joined: Jan 2009

I had the IMRT and had no burning of the skin, not even any redness. No special creams were needed. I had no bowel issues with radiation either.

I was always ready for the bathroom, as I was advised to have a full bladder before each radiation treatment. So after each treatment, I was ready to empty my bladder. Having a full bladder pushed the colon away from the treatment area.

I hope that your radiation treatments are as uneventful as mine were. Good luck to you. In peace and caring.

Posts: 471
Joined: Feb 2011


It's reassuring to know that SOME have few side effects.

But regarding the full bladder, suspect my treatment center is a bit lazy on this issue. Here's why:

I went to my simulation session with a 16-0z bottle of water, which I'd prepared to drink half an hour before simulation. NOBODY had told me to do so; I'd read online that many treatment centers urge their patients to do this to avoid damage to the bowels, damage of the kind that exacerbates diahrrea.

When I ASKED the radiaiton nurses about it, one said, "Oh, you don't need to bring your own water; someone will bring you the water in ten minutes." Another said, "We don't advise you to drink water unless you're a prostate cancer patient. Another said it would probably be a good idea. When my radiological oncologist appeared, I asked her and she said, "Well, it IS a good idea to have a full bladder if you CAN, but we don't advise our patients to drink water because you can't always predict when your session will be as we often run late, and we don't want the experience to be a stressful one.

I dryly asked if it might not be more stressful to wind up with bowel damage and chronic ongoing diahrrhea while at the same time tactully acknowledging that I understood why they want to be "flexible."

Upon reflection, however, it seems to me that they should put patients' wellbeing above their own convenience. (Why should it be so hard for most radiaiton sessions to start on time? Or why couldn't they know that PELVIC radiation HAS to be on time within five to ten minutes?


lkchapman's picture
Posts: 106
Joined: Jan 2011

I had forgotten about all the water I had to drink before radiation.(must be the chemo brain) At Anderson they have a water dispenser and cups in the waiting area and you are encouraged to drink plenty of it before your treatment. They even have the dressing rooms set up so the last door you pass before leaving is to the restroom. :0)

Ro10's picture
Posts: 1579
Joined: Jan 2009

There were a few times that my radiation treatment was delayed for a little bit. I would just use the bathroom and then start drinking again to fill my bladder again. Most of my treatments were on time, but a few times there was a problem with the machine or the computer.

Good luck with your treatments. In peace and caring

Posts: 145
Joined: Sep 2009

I used the water based cream immediately after radio, the non scented soap and was also told not to have over-hot baths. Water intake never mentioned. Had no problems.
I found that I wasn't hungry and although I consider that I ate sensibly in the way of fruit and veg I lost a fair bit of weight over the six weeks.
Good luck and I hope that all goes well.

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