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Side Effects & Management

Most patients will have some side effects while getting radiation therapy treatment.
What are side effects of RT?

Because radiation usually passes through some healthy tissue on its way to the tumour, normal cells can be damaged. This is what causes side effects. These side effects can be short or long term.

Generally, you will only have side effects in the area that is treated with radiation. However, fatigue (tiredness) can happen to all patients having radiation treatment no matter what area is being treated.

Your radiation oncologist, nurse, or radiation therapists will help you to manage your side effects. Check out our Coping with Cancer section also for help with nutrition, emotional, financial and practical support, how to deal with symptoms and side effects, and information about palliative care.

Information for all patients

General Information


You might feel tired during your radiation treatment. This can be caused by: 

  • your cancer
  • your body  using energy to repair radiation damage to healthy cells 
  • pain
  • travel for your treatment
  • appointments
  • anxiety and stress
  • other treatments, like chemotherapy 

Skin Care

For most patients, radiation treatment is given externally with a machine, by passing through your skin to reach the tumour inside (see Types of RT for more information).

Radiation therapy can affect your skin by making it warm, dry, or itchy. It may also look redder or darker than usual. Some people have no skin problems at all with treatment but others may have quite sore skin in the treatment area. This depends on:

  • The type of radiation treatment you have
  • Your skin
  • The treatment area

Radiation side effects usually get worse as you continue through treatment.  You might not feel tired or notice any skin changes at the beginning of treatment. However you might notice changes towards the end of treatment and a few weeks after you finish.

If you would like more information, check out the printable handouts below:



Traditional Chinese

or watch the video below.

Your specific treatment area

The side effects that you get depend on what area of your body is treated.

You will get information from your care team.  You can also click on the links below to read about side effects.

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SOURCE: Side Effects & Management ( )
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