what you need to know about radiotherapy side effects

During radiotherapy your cells are damaged by destroying the genetic material that controls how cells grow and divide. Whilst both healthy and cancerous cells are damaged, your healthy cells can repair themselves, but during this time the damage can create a range of side effects. This can happen during or after treatment or can take months or years to develop.

Early & Late Side Effects 

Early Side Effects 
  • This happens during or after treatment and tends to be short term, mild and treatable. 
  • Usually disappears within a few weeks after treatment is completed. 
  • Side effects include fatigue and skin changes
  • Hair loss and mouth problems may happen depending on the area the treatment is given. 
Late Side Effects 
  • These side effects can take months or even years to develop and affect the tissue in the body where the treatment was given.
  • The risk of late side effects depends on the area treated as well as the radiation dose that was used. 
  • To find out if this may happen to you talk to your radiation oncologist about the risk of long-term side effects.

 

It's very important to remember that every person reacts differently to treatment. Any side effect you might have depends on the type and location of cancer, the dose of radiation being given, and your general health. Some people have few or no side effects, while others have quite a few.

Being aware of possible side effects from radiotherapy can help you know what to watch for, so you can speak to your cancer care team about preventing and relieving them. To help you prepare, look at this list below of common side effects.  

Treatment areas and possible side effects 

 Brain 
Chest
Stomach & Abdomen
Breast 
Head & Neck 
Rectum & Pelvis