Most patients will experience some side effects while getting radiation therapy treatment.
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.
For additional information, click "+" on the topics below.
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
- travel for your treatment appointments
- anxiety and stress
- other treatments, like chemotherapy
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.
The side effects that you get will depend what area of your body is treated.
Please refer to the side effect handouts that will be given to you by your care team.