Patients are not always affected by pain following radiation therapy, but in some cases it can vary widely in location, severity, frequency and response to treatment, explains the National Caregivers Library. In cases where doctors use radiation therapy to mitigate symptoms but not cure the underlying cause, pain or discomfort may persist following treatment.
Over-the-counter pain medication may be effective for mild pain resulting from radiation therapy, according to the National Caregivers Library. In more persistent or severe cases, prescription pain medications or the care of a pain specialist are necessary. Relaxation exercises may be helpful for some patients, as anxiety can worsen pain.
Alternative treatments such as acupuncture, biofeedback or hypnosis may also alleviate pain, although these may interfere with other treatments unless recommended by a doctor. Chronic pain, unusual swelling, gastrointestinal issues, unexplained weight loss and strange rashes or bleeding require immediate medical attention following radiation therapy. Patients should never use heating pads or warm compresses on areas treated with radiation.
Patients often require special care following radiation therapy, states the National Caregivers Library. This may include gentle maintenance of the afflicted area and more frequent rest. In addition to doctor and nurse support, social workers and special support groups can also treat the emotional needs of radiation therapy patients. It is often possible for patients to work during radiation therapy, but jobs with demanding physical requirements may require either leave or a change of responsibilities.