Managing Side Effects
Patients often experience little or no side effects from radiation therapy and are able to continue their normal routines. However, some patients do feel some discomfort from the treatment. Be sure to talk to a member of your radiation oncology treatment team about any problems you may have.
What to Look For
Many of the side effects of radiation therapy are related to the area that is being treated. For example, a breast cancer patient may notice skin irritation, like a mild to moderate sunburn, while a patient with cancer in the mouth may have soreness when swallowing. These side effects are usually temporary and can be treated by your doctor or other members of the treatment team.
Side effects usually begin by the second or third week of treatment, and they may last for several weeks after the final radiation treatment. In rare instances, serious side effects develop after radiation therapy is finished. Your radiation oncologist and radiation oncology nurse are the best people to advise you about the issues you may experience. They can give you information about how to manage them and may prescribe medicines to help relieve your symptoms.
The side effect most often reported by patients receiving radiation is fatigue. The symptoms are usually not very severe and patients can often continue all or some of their normal daily activities with a reduced schedule. Many patients continue to work full time during radiation therapy.
Many patients are concerned that radiation therapy will cause another cancer. In fact, the risk of developing a second tumor because of radiation therapy is very low. For many patients, radiation therapy can cure your cancer. This benefit far outweighs the very small risk that the treatment could cause a later cancer.