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Radiation Therapy Side Effects

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Side effects from radiation treatments vary depending on the type or cancer and its location in the body. In addition to killing cancer cells, it can also damage healthy cells which can cause side effects. A common side effect for many people is fatigue. Giving your body time to heal by getting plenty of rest can help with this.

Skin irritations are also a common side effect. Radiation that is given to kill cancer cells can damage healthy skin cells. This can result in redness, itching, peeling and ulceration of the skin. Taking steps to care for your skin and avoiding irritants that could further damage it are ways to help you cope during this time. In most cases, the skin irritation is temporary and will subside after treatments have ended.

Consuming a healthy diet will help to maintain your energy levels and weight. This can be difficult for some people that experience mouth changes like swelling or mouth sores, or for people who have nausea. Some medications can help to minimize these effects. Learning new ways to prepare healthy food, like smoothies and shakes, can help you get adequate nutrition, which is so important, especially during your treatment.

It’s important for your radiation oncology team to know how you are feeling, and about any side effects that you are experiencing. Sometimes patients won’t have side effects until after they have completed their treatments. These late effects can happen months or years after treatment has finished. Your radiation oncologist will discuss any side effects that you can expect from the type of treatment you received.

Please visit Cancer Treatment Side Effects on our website for more detailed information about different types of side effects. Links to the National Cancer Institute are provided for each. This is very good information about the best ways to treat or lessen any side effects you may have.

Helpful Patient Resources:

https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/types/radiation-therapy/side-effects