What Are Some Side Effects of Throat Radiation?

Side effects of throat radiation include painful sores in the mouth and surrounding area, dry mouth, trouble swallowing, possible breathing problems from swelling and tiredness, according to the American Cancer Society. Most of these side effects disappear on their own in a short period of time, but can worsen if radiation is combined with chemotherapy.

Radiation is typically used on the throat as treatment for those suffering from laryngeal and hypopharyngeal cancers, reports the American Cancer Society. The most common type of radiation therapy is external beam radiation therapy. There is also intensity-modulated radiation therapy and brachytherapy.

One of the side effects of throat radiation is painful sores in the mouth, which make it difficult to eat or drink and often lead to weight loss or malnutrition, explains the American Cancer Society. Radiation in the throat can affect the teeth and significantly worsen any dental issues. It also damages salivary glands and can cause tooth decay.

It is possible for radiation to damage cartilage in the throat, but it is rare. When radiation is combined with chemotherapy, there are more side effects. However, the combination chemoradiation has been more effective in treating laryngeal and hypopharyngeal cancers than either treatment alone.