Side effects of radiation therapy depend on which part of your body is being exposed to radiation and how much radiation is used. You may experience no side effects, or you may experience several. Most side effects are temporary, can be controlled and generally disappear over time once treatment has ended.

Part of body being treated Common side effects
Any part Hair loss at treatment site (sometimes permanent), skin irritation at treatment site, fatigue
Head and neck Dry mouth, thickened saliva, difficulty swallowing, sore throat, changes in the way food tastes, nausea, mouth sores, tooth decay
Chest Difficulty swallowing, cough, shortness of breath
Abdomen Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
Pelvis Diarrhea, bladder irritation, frequent urination, sexual dysfunction

Source: National Cancer Institute, 2007

Some side effects may develop later. For example, in rare circumstances a new cancer (second primary cancer) that's different from the first one treated with radiation may develop years later. Ask your doctor about potential side effects, both short and long term, that may occur after your treatment.

Jul. 26, 2014