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Radiation Therapy Side Effects

Unlike chemotherapy, side effects related to radiation therapy are generally limited to the specific area of the body receiving treatment. For example, temporary hair loss may occur only in the radiation treatment area, and not over the entire body. If you receive radiation therapy to the prostate, your lungs will not be affected by this treatment.

Side effects from radiation therapy are generally classified as either early or late. Early side effects occur during or immediately after radiation therapy. The more common early side effects may include skin reactions (redness, swelling, dryness, pain, peeling, sloughing), decreased blood cell counts, dry mouth, difficulty swallowing, nausea/vomiting, and diarrhea. The side effects you may expect will depend on the physical location of the radiation treatments. Severity of early side effects is not a predictor of later responses.

Late side effects may occur months to years after radiation therapy. It is rare that a secondary malignancy results from radiation therapy. Your radiation oncology team will explain the specific side effects you may experience with your treatment plan, as well as any needed follow-up or monitoring.

Side effects of radiation therapy include:

Radiation Therapy Side Effect Resources