Harbour Cancer Centre
Radiation therapy uses special equipment to deliver high doses of radiation (beam of x-rays) to cancerous tumours, to kill or damage them so they cannot grow or spread. Normal cells may be affected by radiation, but most appear to recover fully from the effects of the treatment. Radiation therapy affects only the tumour and the surrounding area. Some cancers are very sensitive to radiation but not all.
Radiotherapy is usually given in small doses over a period of time; this is known as a course. A doctor who manages your radiotherapy is called a radiation oncologist.
Some common side effects of radiation treatment include:
- Fatigue or tiredness
- During the first 2 weeks of treatment, a faint and short lasting redness may occur on your skin. Dryness and peeling of the skin may occur in 3 to 4 weeks. The skin over the treatment area may become darker.
- Mucositis (inflammation of the lining of the mouth) is a temporary side effect that may happen when radiation is given to the head and neck area.
- Radiation to the head and neck area can increase your chances of getting cavities. Before starting radiation therapy, notify your dentist and plan for a complete check-up.
- When radiation treatments include the chest area, the lungs can be affected and you may experience shortness of breath or cough.
- Radiation to the abdomen may result in swelling and inflammation of the intestines, causing nausea, vomiting, or diarrhoea.