Radiation therapy to the brain can cause several side effects, such as headaches, nausea, vomiting, seizures and hair loss, according to the American Cancer Society. Side effects of radiation treatment vary, depending on the target area of the radiation. Extreme tiredness, skin changes, hearing loss and memory issues are other side effects associated with radiation treatment.
Hair loss is one of the most frequently reported side effects of radiation therapy, explains the Radiological Society of North America. The second most common side effect is a skin irritation that is often red, dry, tender or itchy, especially around the patient's scalp and ears. Patients may also experience fatigue, which can be eased by maintaining a fitness regimen and a healthy diet. While normal energy levels can return six weeks after therapy is concluded, it may feel particularly draining two to three weeks after completion of an extended treatment. These side effects usually occur two to three weeks after therapy begins.
One of the most severe side effects of brain radiation treatments is damaged brain tissue, as this can lead to brain damage, explains Texas Oncology. Neurological side effects can develop immediately following treatment or may not present for months or years, and they include memory loss, personality changes and brain impairment. These symptoms often mimic brain tumor symptoms, so further testing may be required to rule out or diagnose new brain tumors. Brain tumor radiation treatments also put individuals at risk for developing a second form of cancer in the head and neck area.
Edema, appetite loss and speech problems are other possible side effects of radiation therapy, according to the Radiological Society of North America. Edema can be relieved by taking prescription medication that reduces brain swelling, manages pain or prevents seizures. If a patient is going through both radiation therapy and chemotherapy, more severe side effects may be felt.