Radiation Side Effects

Radiation Therapy can cause various side effects to the area of the body receiving radiation. Some of these are short-term and may occur only during treatment and for a short time after treatment finishes. Others may be more long-term.

It is important to remember that because everyone is different their reaction to treatment differs too. Many people experience very few, or even no, side effects at all. Your Radiation Oncologist will discuss possible side effects with you before your treatment starts.

There are many factors that determine which, if any, side effects you may experience. They include:

  • The amount of radiation given

  • The area of your body we are treating

  • The type of radiation delivered

The effects of the radiation increase in your body over the course of treatment so its unlikely that you will experience any side effects straight away. They tend to appear after a week or so, reaching a peak about 7 to 10 days after your treatment finishes and then subsiding.

Some side effects are general while others depend on what part of the body we are treating. The most common general side effects are:

Fatigue

It is possible that the treatment may make you feel tired or generally fatigued. This is because your body is working to repair the damage that the radiation causes to normal, healthy tissue. Of course, travelling to the centre each day can also be tiring.

Please see the Cancer Society Fatigue Information Leaflet for more information.

Skin Reaction

Radiation therapy can affect the skin in the area being treated. Many people don't notice any change at all but some people experience symptoms similar to sunburn. Your skin may become red, or darker, and sore.

The Radiation Therapists treating you will look for signs of soreness but its important that you tell them if your skin is becoming tender or sore. In a few cases the reaction may be quite severe, causing the skin to peel. If this happens it's possible that you will be given a break in your treatment to allow your skin to recover, but sore skin usually begins to settle down a few weeks after your treatment finishes.

Your treatment team will provide you with written information about the specific side effects that you may experience with your treatment plan. Please ask them if you haven't received this information.

Skin Care Information

Radiation Treatment Side Effects Information

These patient information leaflets have been developed by the Oncology Service, Canterbury DHB. They are intended for patients having radiation treatment in the Christchurch Hospital Oncology Department. 

Side Effects of Radiation Treatment

Side Effects of Radiation Treatment to the Abdomen and Pelvis

Side Effects of Radiation Treatment to the Brain

Side Effects from Radiation Treatment to the Breast

Side Effects from Radiation Treatment to the Breast and Nodal Area

Side Effects of Radiation Treatment to the Chest

Side Effects of Radiation Treatment to the Chestwall

Side Effects of Radiation Treatment to the Female Pelvis

Side Effects of Radiation Treatment to the Head and Neck

Side Effects of Radiation Treatment to the Oesophagus

Side Effects of Radiation Treatment to the Prostate

Side Effects of Radiation Treatment to the Rectum

Side Effects and Information of Radiation Treatment using SABR/SBRT

Side Effects of Radiation Treatment to the Whole Body

Page last reviewed: 05 December 2017
Contact Us
Image of a Phone By Phone
Image of an Email sign By Email

For a full list of the convenient ways that you can contact us, refer to the Contact Us page