Side effects can occur with radiation therapy because the high doses of radiation used to kill cancer cells may have also damaged healthy cells in the treatment area. Side effects are different for each person, with some people having more and others barely noticing any. Side effects may be more severe if you also receive chemotherapy to treat your cancer.
Most side effects occur gradually, usually beginning to appear by the second or third week into treatment. They are temporary, but some may continue for weeks or months after your treatment before they subside. Talk to your radiation therapy team about your chances of having side effects and let them know if you have any problems.
Many people who get radiation therapy have skin changes and some fatigue. Other side effects depend on the part of your body being treated and may disappear after about two months of the completion of your treatment.
During radiation therapy, your body will use up more energy than it normally does, causing feelings of fatigue. Additionally, the stress of coping with a serious illness, trips for treatment and the effects of radiation on the body all can cause fatigue. It is common for fatigue to last for 4-6 weeks after your treatment has been completed, after which it will begin to improve.
Skin changes may include dryness, itching, peeling, or blistering. These changes, which are generally temporary, occur because radiation therapy damages healthy skin cells in the treatment area. You will need to take special care of your skin during radiation therapy.