Which Side Effects May I Have, And How Long Will They Last?

1. What is Radiation Therapy?

2. How does Radiation Therapy work?

3. What can I expect after I am told I need Radiation Therapy?

4. Will Radiation Therapy make me radioactive?

5. Will the treatment hurt while they are being given?

6. Which side effects may I have, and how long will they last?

There are usually no immediate side effects from each radiation treatment.


Over time, you may experience side effects from your treatment. Before you start treatment, your doctor will review with you the potential side effects that you may expect. Side effects that may eventually occur during the course of your treatment plan depend on the part of the body being treated by radiation. Most of these side effects go away a few weeks after treatment is stopped. Some more common side effects that people have include:

  • Red, itching and peeling skin in your treatment area. This usually happens after about 4 weeks of radiation therapy. Report any skin problems to your nurse or doctor. Refer to the next section for skin care information during treatments.
  • Fatigue. You may feel more tired than usual. Make sure to get plenty of rest, and do not overexert yourself.
  • Loss of appetite. You may not feel like eating. This side effect is common if your abdomen or mouth is in the treatment area. If so, try eating several small meals or snacks (dry toast, crackers) throughout the day, instead of three big meals. A dietitian can give you more tips on eating during treatment.
  • Hair loss. Hair loss may occur, but only in the area being treated.

You will receive specific information about your type of radiation therapy and what to expect. This information will include what to do in case of problems and how to manage your specific side effects. Be sure to tell your nurse if you are having any side effects and have questions or concerns in regard to them. It is important to remember that most side effects are minor to modest. Many of our patients continue to work everyday and go home after their treatments without any required hospitalization while they are receiving treatments.

8. How do I make an appointment?

9. Do I need preauthorization from my insurance carrier for treatment?

10. What other services can I receive at the Cancer Treatment Center?