Frequently Asked Questions about Cancer
Side effects of radiation treatment vary from patient to patient. You may have no side effects or only a few mild ones during your treatment. Or you may have more serious side effects. The side effects that you experience depend mostly on the treatment dose and the part of the body treated.
Your general health may also affect how your body reacts to radiation and whether you develop side effects. Before beginning treatment, your Radiation Oncologist and Radiation Nurse will discuss the side effects that you may experience, how long they might last, and how serious they might be.
There are two main types of side effects: acute and chronic. Acute, or short-term, side effects occur during the treatment and are usually gone completely within a few weeks of finishing treatment. Chronic, or long-term, side effects may take months or years to develop and may be permanent.
The most common side effects include fatigue and skin irritation. Fatigue may result from treatment to any site in the body. Skin irritation may not occur, particularly if tumors deep inside the body are treated. However, if it does, it is limited to the area treated.
Side effects in general are related to the area treated. For example, hair loss may occur when undergoing treatment to the head. Diarrhea may occur when undergoing treatment to the abdomen or pelvis.
Fortunately, most side effects will go away in time. In the meantime, there are ways to reduce the discomfort they cause. If you have a side effect that is particularly severe, your Radiation Oncologist may prescribe some medications or a break in your treatment you’re receiving.
Be sure to tell you Radiation Oncologist, Radiation Nurse, or Radiation Therapist about any side effects that you notice. They can help you treat the problems.