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What Are The Radiation Therapy Side Effects?

What Are Radiation Therapy Side Effects | CARTI Cancer Centers

As one of the three most common treatments for cancer, radiation therapy is chosen as a course of treatment for approximately 60% of cancer patients. Radiation may be prescribed as the patient’s only treatment, or it may be prescribed in combination with surgery and/or chemotherapy. But patients often ask, what are the radiation therapy side effects?

For patients who undergo radiation therapy, the course of treatment is as varied and personalized as the types of cancer radiation therapy can treat. Some patients may come daily while others will come weekly. Treatments may last anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes and the patient may undergo five to more than 45 treatment sessions in total. 

Side Effects of Radiation Therapy

Every person will react differently to radiation therapy. Side effects depend on the type and location of the cancer, the dose of radiation and the patient’s general health. Some patients may experience few or no side effects, while others may experience several. 

Side effects are often broken down into early and late presenting. 

Early side effects present during or shortly after treatment. These side effects tend to be short-term, mild and treatable, and usually subside within a few weeks of the patient ending treatment. Common early side effects include: 

  • Fatigue
  • Skin changes
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Hair loss at the area being treated
  • Mouth sores, if given in this area

Late side effects can present months or even years after a patient completes their radiation therapy. Whether a patient will experience late side effects depends on the area that was treated as well as the level of radiation that was delivered. CARTI’s radiation oncology team takes careful consideration when planning all radiation therapy plans in hopes of avoiding any serious long-term side effects. We recommend talking to your radiation oncologist about the risk of long-term side effects.

Although they can be unpleasant, most side effects that occur during radiation therapy are not serious and can be controlled with medication or diet. 

For patients who experience side effects that have a negative impact on their overall wellbeing, CARTI has multiple resources available, including:

  • The Dental Clinic at CARTI offers individualized recommendations and appropriate dental hygiene products to protect our patients’ oral health and prevent short- and long-term damage. By incorporating oral health into the overall treatment plan, we help our patients minimize infection, decrease harmful side effects and prevent delays and breaks in their course of treatment.
  • Our Supportive and Palliative Care program provides patients with an extra layer of support specifically targeted at relieving side effects of their treatment. This specialty is delivered in tandem with the patient’s overall oncology care.
  • Food for Thought video series, which provides nutritional suggestions for patients currently undergoing treatment. 

For more information about radiation oncology services at CARTI, click here