The side effects of radiation therapy vary, and two patients receiving the same treatment may not have the same experience. For example, one person may experience several side effects while the other person has a mild reaction to treatment. There is no certain way to determine who will experience side effects.
You can find a more comprehensive list of side effects by area of treatment here.
Most radiation therapy side effects go away on their own within a few weeks of your final treatment. During this time, you may not feel up to your normal energy level, and some side effects may impact your ability to perform your job as normal. Your doctor may recommend that you limit your normal activity.
Managing radiation therapy side effects can help you both recover more quickly and be as comfortable as possible.
You may feel fatigued during treatment, which is a very normal side effect of radiation therapy. The most important thing you can do after radiation therapy is to rest. Sleep helps your body make repairs and speed along your recovery.
In some cases, you may not have much of an appetite after radiation therapy. Even so, staying well fed and eating nutrient-rich foods will help give your body the fuel it needs to recover.
Skin changes such as redness and tenderness are a common side effect of radiation therapy. Some soaps and lotions contain dyes, fragrances, and other ingredients that may further irritate the skin. Speak with your doctor about products they recommend that will not aggravate sensitive skin.
Only you know how you feel, so it’s important to communicate with your doctor about what you’re experiencing. Keep your doctor updated with any changes or side effects that you feel. Your doctor may be able to prescribe medication that helps alleviate your symptoms and help you be more comfortable.
It’s important to note that you will only experience side effects in the area being treated. So, if you have radiation treatment on a cancer in your leg, you will not lose the hair on your head but you may experience hair loss on your leg.
Side effects of radiation therapy can occur in both the short and long term.
Your doctor will advise you of potential acute and late term side effects for your specific treatment plan.
Returning to normal activity will depend on the individual and on the severity of the side effects. Some people find that they are able to return to their usual activity level within a few days of radiation treatment. Other people may need to rest and recover before they can resume activities as usual.
Since there is no set time frame, listen to your body and make decisions on what you can or cannot do depending on how you are feeling. If you have any questions or concerns about resuming normal activities, consult with your doctor.