Side Effects of Radiation Therapy

Side Effects of Radiation Therapy

What are the Side Effects of Radiation Therapy?

The most common side effect of radiation therapy is fatigue. Since side effects depend on the area being treated, everyone’s experience is different. Some people do not experience any side effects at all. We have listed the most common side effects by area of treatment. Please note that this list is not comprehensive. Your doctor will discuss all potential side effects during consultation.

Potential Short-Term (Acute) Side Effects of Radiation Therapy

The short-term side effects of radiation therapy usually manifest within the first couple weeks of treatment. Following the last treatment, these side effects generally resolve on their own.

Common Brain Side Effects

  • Cerebral edema (swelling of the brain tissues)
  • Skin reactions on the scalp
  • Hair loss or thinning
  • Somnolence syndrome
  • Earaches
  • Difficulty hearing

Common Head and Neck Side Effects

  • Hair loss on the head
  • Mouth changes (dry mouth, tooth decay)
  • Mouth sores
  • Skin inflammation or swelling
  • Skin irritation
  • Discomfort or difficulty when swallowing
  • Changes in taste
  • Thyroid problems

Common Abdominal Side Effects

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Skin inflammation or swelling
  • Skin irritation
  • Ulcers
  • Indigestion, bloating, or gas

Common Side Effects in the Chest

  • Sore throat
  • Loss of appetite
  • Changes in taste
  • Heartburn
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Lung problems

Common Side Effects in the Breast

  • Breast skin redness
  • Dry skin
  • Skin darkening
  • Chest soreness
  • Breast swelling

Common Side Effects in the Pelvic Area

  • Hair loss in pubic region
  • Urination changes
  • Diarrhea
  • Skin inflammation or swelling
  • Skin irritation

Common Side Effects of Prostate Cancer Therapy

  • Increased urinary frequency
  • Burning with urination
  • Loose stools
  • Problems with sexual function
  • Low risk injury to bladder or bowel (rare)

Potential Late-Term Side Effects of Radiation Therapy

In addition to short term side effects, patients may experience late-term side effects. These are side effects that manifest themselves months or years following radiation therapy.

Late-Term Side Effects of Radiation Therapy in the Brain:

  • Hair loss
  • Neurological changes (cognitive function, emotions, memory problems, balance or coordination problems)
  • Cranial nerve damage
  • Hormone deficiencies

Late-Term Side Effects of Radiation Therapy in the Head or Neck:

  • Hair loss
  • Tooth decay
  • Osteoradionecrosis (bone death caused by radiation)
  • Vision changes
  • Thyroid problems
  • Radiation myelopathy (damage to the spinal cord)
  • Dry mouth
  • Injury to the brachial plexus
  • Change in taste

Late-Term Side Effects of Radiation Therapy in the Abdomen:

  • Chronic enteritis (inflammation of the intestines)
  • Ulcers
  • Liver problems
  • Kidney problems
  • Radiation myelopathy (damage to the spinal cord)

Late-term Side Effects of Radiation Therapy in the Chest:

  • Heart problems
  • Radiation myelopathy (damage to the spinal cord)
  • Pulmonary fibrosis (thickening of lung tissue)

Late-term Side Effects in the Pelvic Region Include:

  • Infertility and early menopause in women
  • Infertility in men
  • Incontinence
  • Skin changes

Late-term Side Effects of Prostate Cancer Therapy:

  • Increased urinary frequency
  • Burning with urination
  • Bowel changes
  • Problems with sexual function
  • Infertility

Other Potential Late-Term Side Effects:

  • Lymphedema
  • Second cancer (rare)

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Serving Anderson & Greenville SC, and Surrounding Areas

We welcome patients and family from all over the world, but mostly those living within a hundred-mile radius of Anderson and Greenville, South Carolina.

AnmedHealthLevine Cancer Institute

AnMed Health & Blue Ridge Radiation Oncology are charter members of Levine Cancer Institute's cancer care network. Carolinas HealthCare System's Levine Cancer Institute aims to build "a cancer institute without walls," by increasing access to specialist consultations, research offerings, program offerings and services to member institutions throughout the Carolinas.

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Appointments - Call AnMed Cancer Center:

(864) 512-4600
AnMed Cancer Center, 2000 E Greenville St, Anderson, SC 29621

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