Common side effects of radiation therapy include itching, blistering, peeling or dry skin, and persistent exhaustion and fatigue, according to the American Society of Clinical Oncology. Some people may develop a second form of cancer, but the risk is low and the benefits usually outweigh the risk.
Many side effects of radiation therapy depend on what part of the body is receiving treatment, notes Mayo Clinic. If the part of the body being treated has hair, the hair may be lost temporarily or permanently. For head or neck treatments, common side effects include sore throat, altered food tastes, difficulty swallowing and tooth decay. Other side effects of neck and head radiation therapy include mouth sores, thickened saliva, dry mouth and nausea.
Side effects of radiation therapy on the chest include shortness of breath, coughing and difficulty swallowing, states Mayo Clinic. People who receive radiation therapy on the abdomen may experience diarrhea, vomiting and nausea. Side effects of radiation therapy to the pelvis include frequent urination, sexual problems, diarrhea and an irritated bladder.
Some people may not experience side effects, and the severity of the side effects depends on how much radiation is used, according to Mayo Clinic. Side effects usually go away after treatment is over, and some of them may be able to be controlled during treatment.