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What to wear during cancer treatment: dressing for comfort & practicability

Cancer treatment can go on for months or even years for some people. That’s certainly a long time to wear flimsy and uncomfortable hospital gowns or struggle with unsuitable clothing during chemotherapy, radiotherapy or after surgery.

When it comes to finding the best clothes to wear during treatment, it’s about comfort and practicality, and also about feeling like you’re still you.

Here, we’ve shared some tips on the best types of clothing to wear when you have cancer and are having treatment. We also recommend some fantastic innovative clothing brands that are helping to make going through treatment a little easier.

Clothes to wear during treatment

What to wear when you’re having chemotherapy

You may be wondering what you should wear during chemo. For some of you, your sessions can last up to 3 to 4 hours, so it’s important that you’re wearing practical and comfortable clothing.

Wear a short sleeve, low neck or button-up shirt to make it easier for the treatment technician to put an IV in your arm or a port in your chest – ask your nurse or doctor in advance where your port will be. Short sleeves or 3/4-length sleeves may also be a good option for days of blood pressure checks and blood draws.

There are clothing brands that have catered for patients with chest ports and have designed accessible clothing, such as the Care + Wear Central Line and Chest Port Access Polo Shirt (for men) the Care + Wear Central Line and Chest Port Access Blouse (for women).


The Central Line and Chest Port Access Polo Shirt allows you to easily access your chest port without the uncomfortableness of disrobing.

Bring a jumper or cardigan that you can take off or put back on quickly in case you get cold during treatment. Comfy socks and slippers will also keep your feet warm and cosy.

If your chemo drugs cause you to lose your hair, it’s really important to keep your head warm with some sort of headwear like a beanie or woolly hat. You may be feeling a little self-conscious without your hair, so a colourful hat, scarf or head turban can help you feel more cheerful and comfortable.

What to wear when you’re having radiotherapy

If you’re having external beam radiotherapy, wear clothes that are comfortable and made of soft fabric, such as cotton or bamboo. Choose clothes that are easy to take off, since you may need to change into a hospital gown or show the area that is being treated. Also, do not wear jewellery, talcum powder, body lotion, or deodorant in or near your treatment area.

During radiotherapy and for a while afterwards your skin may become very sensitive. You may find it more comfortable if you wear loose fitting clothes and avoid tight collars and ties if you’ve had radiotherapy to your neck or chest. It may also help to avoid shoulder and bra straps – go without a bra, wear a crop top instead, or try a sports bra a size bigger than usual. If you’re having radiotherapy for a gynecological cancer, you might feel more comfortable in loose, jogging bottoms without underwear.

Clothes to wear when you’re in pain

If you’re experiencing aches and pains, from treatment or surgery, pulling a top overhead can be an exhausting task for. A shirt with buttons may be easier to put on and off. Buttons also allow the doctor or nurse quick and discreet access to a port for chemo treatment or IV fluids or just to use a stethoscope. However, patients on chemo may lose feeling in their fingers and have trouble buttoning a shirt on their own. Loose fitting clothing with no buttons, such as Jilla Half Moon Bamboo Top and Jilla Wanderlust Tie Bamboo Top, made from Bamboo are comfortable and practical. Tight waistband trousers may also be uncomfortable are some surgeries - try wearing loose elasticated trousers like jogging bottoms.

 

Clothes to wear when you’re losing weight

People with cancer often lose a lot of weight, sometimes very quickly. It can be very expensive to keep on buying new bottoms each time your waist size drops. Try to find trousers elasticated waistbands or with drawstrings that can be tightened as the weight drops or a comfortable belt that helps adjust the size of your bottoms. If wearing a belt is too uncomfortable and restrictive, although a little old-fashioned, suspenders/braces can help take pressure off the waist.

Hospital clothing for cancer treatment

Taking your own hospital gown

When you’re admitted, the hospital will provide you with a gown, but you’re more than welcome to bring your own if you wish.

Designed to provide a little more dignity than the standard patient gown, the Hospital Gown from Care+Wear is packed with practical features to help you stay comfortable and covered up during treatment.

what to wear during cancer treatment - care and wear patient gown

Wearing a flimsy gown in hospital can make the whole process feel scarier and more ‘real’ for patients. Making sure doctors and nurses have quick access to areas of your body for tests, procedures, and checkups can mean whipping off your top or trousers at a moment’s notice, and this can be pretty distressing for patients who are already feeling vulnerable or uncomfortable.

what to wear during cancer treatment - care and wear patient gown

So patient experience experts Care+Wear teamed up with fashion designers at Parsons School of Design in New York to create the ultimate patient gown, combining patient comfort and dignity with practical access points for medical professionals.

what to wear during cancer treatment - care and wear patient gown

The Care + Wear Hospital  Gown features:

  • Front pocket slit for chest port, telemetry, and stethoscope access
  • Inner and outer tie fastenings
  • Colour-coded ties with thumb loops for easy tying
  • 4 snap fastenings on each arm for easy port access
  • No metal parts – can be worn in MRI scanners
  • 2 snap fastenings on the  back – for easy upper back access
  • Lower back design with stay-in-place opening for modesty
  • Back slit opening for easy lower body access 

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