Radiation therapy side effects 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
|Source: National Cancer Institute, 2016
||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
||Difficulty swallowing, cough, shortness of breath
||Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
||Diarrhea, bladder irritation, frequent urination, sexual dysfunction
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.
Aug. 01, 2017
- Radiation therapy and you: Support for people with cancer. National Cancer Institute. https://www.cancer.gov/publications/patient-education/radiation-therapy-and-you. Accessed April 2, 2017.
- External beam therapy (EBT). RadiologyInfo.org. https://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?pg=ebt. Accessed April 2, 2017.
- Gunderson LL, et al. Intensity-modulated and image-guided radiation therapy. In: Clinical Radiation Oncology. 4th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2016. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Jan. 4, 2017.
- Riggin ER. Allscripts EPSi. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Jan. 31, 2017.