While radiation therapy is not painful, some patients may experience side effects that cause discomfort or pain. The occurence and severity of side effects from radiation therapy varies from patient to patient, and some patients may not see any side effects.
According to the National Cancer Society, the most common side effects are:
- Fatigue (feeling very tired)
- Skin changes
- Loss of appetite
Other side effects you might have depend on the part of the body being treated. For example, if you get radiation to the head, you might have hair loss. Or, if you get radiation to the chest, you might have a cough or sore throat. And a person with breast cancer might notice a skin change like mild sunburn.
Dealing With Side Effects
While most side effects go away in time, there are ways to help you feel better. Please let us know (tell your doctor, nurse or radiation therapist) about any side effects you are experiencing so that we can help you address them. For example, our nutrition counselors can help patients with persistent fatigue and appetite problems devise eating strategies that focus on foods high in calories and protein. If the side effects are particularly bad, the doctor may make adjustments to your treatment schedule.
For more information from the American Cancer Society about dealing with side effects, click here.