What Are Some Side Effects of Radiation Treatment?


Quick Answer

Common side effects of radiation treatment include fatigue and skin changes, such as itching, dryness, peeling and blistering, according to the National Cancer Institute. Other side effects depend on the part of the body receiving radiation therapy and include diarrhea, hair loss, nausea and vomiting, swelling, trouble swallowing, mouth changes, sexual changes, and urinary or bladder changes.

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What Are Some Side Effects of Radiation Treatment?
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Full Answer

Radiation therapy consists of bombarding cancer cells with high doses of radiation in order to kill them, explains the National Cancer Institute. Side effects are the result of healthy cells being damaged or killed by the radiation. The severity of the side effects a person experiences during radiation treatment varies greatly from person to person, and the specific side effects depend on the area of the body receiving treatment. For example, the American Cancer Society explains that people receiving head or neck radiation treatment frequently experience mouth, throat and teeth side effects, such as mouth pain, trouble swallowing, loss of taste and cavities. Generally, radiation treatment side effects are worse for people who receive chemotherapy at the same time as radiation treatment, or before or after radiation treatment, according to the National Cancer Institute. Most symptoms of radiation treatment go away within two months after the end of treatment, but for some people the side effects never go away. Additionally, new side effects can occur months or even years after radiation treatment ends, including infertility, joint problems or a secondary cancer.

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