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Can Cancer Treatments Post a Risk to Others?

Anyone who has undergone cancer treatment understands these procedures can be grueling for the patient. They can also take their toll on loved ones who stand by a patient’s side, providing love, care and support. But, can cancer treatments actually pose a risk to those loved ones?

That is an excellent question with no real simple one-size-fits-all answer. The reality is some forms of cancer treatment do come with precautions about maintaining close contact with others, but the majority of treatment options don’t.

Radiation is one form of therapy that may come with special instructions. If radiation involves external treatments, there are generally no restrictions attached. If the radiation source is implanted in the body, such as is the case with some forms of prostate cancer treatment, there may be a few caveats. Should the source of internal radiation be left in the body, it’s generally OK to be close to someone, such as while riding in a car. It may not be advisable, however, for an internal radiation patient to have close, prolonged contact with others for at least two months or so.

For those undergoing chemotherapy, the need to avoid personal contact is less intense. While the bodily fluids may secrete chemicals, making it important for others to steer clear of direct contact with fluids right after a procedure, close physical contact is generally just fine. Male patients may need to use condoms within the first 48 hours after a treatment, but other than that the precautions for others are minimal.

If you or a loved one is undergoing cancer treatment, be sure to ask your doctor any questions you may have about contact. In most cases, it is perfectly safe for loved ones to be around to provide a much-needed shoulder to lean on.