What Are the Side Effects of Radiation Treatment for Cancer?


Quick Answer

After getting radiation therapy, some people may experience blistering, peeling, itchiness or dryness on their skin, according to the American Society of Clinical Oncology. Some people may feel tired or exhausted from chemotherapy, and resting does not improve the fatigue. Other side effects vary depending on the type of cancer.

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What Are the Side Effects of Radiation Treatment for Cancer?
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Full Answer

Radiation treatment side effects related to the skin tend to subside within a few weeks after treatment has ended, notes the ASCO. A doctor may change treatment scheduling or dosage if side effects become too severe. Although side effects generally subside after treatment, some people may experience long-term side effects, including the risk of developing cancer again. However, the benefits of radiation therapy tend to overweigh the risk of developing a second cancer.

Radiation therapy may cause specific side effects on various body parts, states the ASCO. Getting radiation therapy on the head and neck can cause tooth decay, a stiff jaw, gum sores and difficulty swallowing. Chest treatment can cause shortness of breath, cough and lung inflammation. Exposing the abdomen or stomach to radiation may cause diarrhea, nausea or vomiting. Treating pelvic cancer may cause bladder irritation, sexual problems, incontinence or rectal bleeding. A physician may be able to provide advice on managing radiation side effects.

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