Side effects of radiation therapyRadiation therapy destroys cancer cells in the body, where it is directed. Meanwhile, it has an impact on some of the healthy cells nearby. Radiotherapy can affect people in different ways, so it is difficult to predict exactly how it will respond to the human body. Some people have very mild side effects in others they are more serious.

Common side effects of radiation therapy

Impact of radiotherapy on the blood

In some cases, radiation therapy reduces the number of cells in the bone marrow that produce blood cells. Most often this occurs when radiation is exposed to a large area of ​​the body or the chest, abdomen and pelvis, lower limb bones.

If the reduced content of red blood cells - red blood cells, anemia, people will feel shortness of breath and fatigue. It may need blood transfusions to increase these cells. If there are contraindications for this procedure may be recommended erythropoietin injections. It is a hormone that stimulates the body to synthesize the red blood cells.

When significant decrease in the number of leukocytes, which is extremely rare as a side effect of radiation therapy, developing neutropenia. Significantly increases the risk of infections. Rather, in this situation, the doctor will make a break in treatment to condition normal.

Patients receiving total body irradiation before bone marrow or stem cells will have low blood counts. During this treatment in order to control the state of regular doctors examine blood.

Fatigue as a side effect of radiation therapy

The patient may feel fatigue. This is due to the need to direct the body's power to restore damage caused by radiotherapy as a result of exposure to healthy cells. If possible, you should drink daily for 3 liters of water. Hydration helps the body to recover.

Fatigue, generally increases with treatment. The patient may not feel tired at the beginning of therapy, but the end is likely to be. Within 1-2 weeks after irradiation, the patient may feel increased fatigue, weakness, lack of energy. For a number of months a person can be in this state.

Recommendations to maintain or improve energy

Some studies suggest that it is important to balance exercise and rest. Try to introduce a daily walk for a few minutes. Gradually it will be possible to increase the distance. It is important to choose the time when a person feels less tired.

How to save energy:

  • Try not to rush.
  • When possible, plan ahead.
  • It is not necessary to move somewhere in the rush hour.
  • It is important to get professional medical consultation.
  • Wear loose clothing that does not require the use of iron, cook it in advance.
  • When possible, perform some household duties sitting.
  • Organize help with shopping, housework and children.
  • Perhaps it will be easier to eat more often than stick to three meals a day.
  • For snacks, you can choose a variety of nutritious snacks and drinks. Also buy ready-made meals that only require heating.

As a consequence of fatigue after radiation therapy of the brain

In radiation therapy of brain fatigue is particularly manifest in particular if the assigned steroids. It reaches its maximum 1-2 weeks after completion of treatment. A small number of people are sleeping most of the day after a long course of radiation therapy.

Diet during radiotherapy

During irradiation, a healthy diet is important, as far as possible. The body needs protein and more calories for recovery. Clinical oncologist can give recommendations on how to eat. In the event of power problems will help dietician. It is important during treatment does not stick to any diet. A specific radiation therapy plan is dependent on body size. If the weight of serious change, it will be necessary to refine the plan.

If the patient is able to eat normal foods, it is important that he choose foods that are high in protein - meat, fish, eggs, cheese, milk, beans, kidney beans.

If there is no appetite, it is possible to give preference to high-energy drinks as milk shakes or soups. There is an option to add to the normal food protein powders.

If possible, use about 3 liters of fluid. Hydration accelerates the recovery process.

Advice on nutrition during radiotherapy

If you have problems, may be helpful:

  1. Small snacks instead of big meals.
  2. If you have difficulty swallowing soft or liquid diet. Avoid sharp foods.
  3. Exclusion of spirits, it aggravates inflammation in the oral cavity or worsens digestion.
  4. If necessary, should consult about taking dietary supplements.

If there are problems with food, you may prefer foods high in fat instead of protein and carbohydrates. During radiation therapy a person can lose a certain amount of weight.

Side effects of radiation therapy on the skin

Radiotherapy is able to provoke redness or darkening of the skin in the treatment area. Some people develop a reaction in the other - do not actually have, it depends on the skin type and the area being treated.

Redness may be accompanied by pain, like the pain of sunburn. Sometimes there are blisters that go. This condition develops after a few sessions. It is important to inform about the reactions of the attending physician. symptoms usually disappear after 2-4 weeks after completion of therapy.

Sometimes there are skin reactions at the back, where the radiation comes out - redness or darkening. If they cause significant pain therapy is temporarily stopped until the skin to recover.

Skin care

The different clinics consultation may vary. It is best to follow the instructions which are given directly to the treating team of doctors.

Usually recommend using warm or cool water and mild soap, odorless, soft towel. Do not use cream or bandage on the area of ​​treatment, unless appointed by the oncologist. You do not need to use the talc since it may comprise a tiny metal particles and amplify pain following radiation therapy. You can use a deodorant, odorless, if it does not irritate the skin. You can also try baby soap or liquid baby soap, but first consult with your doctor. Men in the appointment of radiotherapy in head and neck area should use an electric razor instead of wet shaving.

Clothing during radiotherapy

During treatment and for some time after the skin is sensitive. During this period, it may be convenient:

  1. Wear loose clothing.
  2. Use clothing made of natural fibers.
  3. Avoid tight collars and ties, especially if radiation affects the neck.
  4. Radiation therapy to the chest women should not use tight bra, try, for example, a sports bra one size larger than usual.

Stay outdoors

Areas of the skin that have been treated, are very sensitive, so it is important to avoid exposure to the hot sun or in the cold wind.

Being exposed to sunlight, it is recommended:

  1. Use a sunscreen with a high protection factor.
  2. Wear a hat or shirt with long sleeves.
  3. If performed radiation therapy of the head or neck, you can try to wear a hat or a scarf made of silk or cotton, leaving the street.


If the patient likes to swim, you need to consult with your doctor. Swimming in chlorinated water can cause irritation in the treated area.

Long-term side effects of radiation therapy on the skin

After completion of treatment a person may find that tanning is a permanent tint. As such there is no harm from it. You can use makeup to hide.

Later may cause a condition such as telangiectasia, dilation of small blood vessels - vascular mesh. Also, they can be hidden by makeup.

Effects after radiotherapy on fertility and sexual life of women

Radiation therapy, acting on the lower abdomen in women during pre-menopause usually leads to menopause. Cease the production of female sex cells and hormones. Irradiation also affects the uterus, it is likely that later will not have children.

menopause symptoms

After radiation therapy in the pelvic area in a few weeks, the following menopausal symptoms:

  • hot flashes and sweating;
  • dry skin;
  • vaginal dryness;
  • lack of energy;
  • irregular menstrual cycle or absence of menstruation;
  • decreased interest in sex;
  • bad mood swings.

Before starting radiation therapy physician will discuss with the patient the possibility of infertility.


Can be assigned to hormone replacement therapy to help overcome the symptoms of menopause. If you have problems definitely need to talk to a clinical oncologist.

Radiation therapy and sex life

Irradiation of the pelvis can make vaginal tissue stiffer and less resilient for a long time. This condition is called fibrosis. In addition, radiation therapy can narrow down and make the vagina shorter, which will affect the sex life. In addition, there may be dryness and pain during intercourse. There are ways to reduce both of these side effects of radiation therapy.

The narrowing of the vagina

To prevent or minimize the reduction and narrowing of the vagina is important to use vaginal dilators after radiotherapy. The radiation oncologist will explain how to apply. If they are not used, after treatment can be difficult when you have sex.

Dilators made of plastic or metal, are of different sizes. As a rule, they are starting to use between 2 and 8 weeks after completion of therapy.

The expander is inserted into the vagina for 5-10 minutes 3 times a week. He stretches the body and prevents its restriction. But if a woman has sex at least twice a week, there is no need to use the extender.

Vaginal dryness and pain

After radiation therapy in the pelvic area can be vaginal dryness and pain during intercourse. In this case, you need to consult a doctor. It can be assigned to a hormonal cream or HRT.

Effects after radiotherapy on fertility and sexuality in men

After irradiation, there may be some problems with sex:

  • loss of interest in sex;
  • acute pain during ejaculation;
  • the problem with erection.

Loss of interest in sex

Such a reaction can be triggered by fears of disease or the future. Also, it could be because of fatigue caused by radiation. It will take time to recover after treatment.

Acute pain during ejaculation

Radiation therapy can cause irritation of the urethra, which leads to pain during ejaculation. A few weeks later the condition is normalized.

After the internal radiation therapy during the first month after treatment for prostate cancer (brachytherapy) is necessary to use condoms. Very rarely, but the radiation may be present in the sperm.

Erection problems

Pelvic radiotherapy may cause temporary or permanent erection problems, effects on the nerves in the area. Some medicines or medical devices can help in solving this problem. It will be necessary to consult a doctor.

Fertility after radiation therapy

Radiation therapy usually does not affect the ability of a man to have children. Many men who have undergone radiation, healthy children are born.

When radiation therapy in the pelvic area, doctors notified of the need to use effective contraception during the next period of time - from 6 months - 2 years - opinions of doctors disagree. This is due to the fact that after irradiation sperm can be damaged, it will lead to abnormalities in the child.

In the treatment of testicular cancer radiation therapy is rarely given to the two bodies. This can lead to temporary or permanent infertility. Before this treatment, the doctor will discuss this risk with patients.

If the patient is young and plans to have children, it is possible to keep the sperm.

sperm banks

In the case where exposure can cause infertility, can save a part of the sperm in a sperm bank. For several weeks the patient is losing a few samples. They are frozen and stored. Later, when the time comes, the samples were thawed and used for fertilization partner.

Effects after radiation therapy of the brain


Radiotherapy is able to provoke an increased fatigue. This type of radiation is used, if:

  • There is a primary brain tumor.
  • In the brain cancer cells infiltrated from another chamber - secondary neoplasm.

Fatigue increases gradually, the treatment program lasts for a few weeks. By the end of the patient may feel very tired.

Fatigue - a direct consequence of the treatment, due to the need to direct the energy reserves to repair damage to healthy cells. Steroids further exacerbates the lack of forces. Normal state, when the treatment ends in about six weeks.

In some people, a few weeks after completion of therapy is very serious fatigue, combined with a feeling of sleepiness and irritability. This is a rare side effect, which does not require treatment, it goes away on its own within a few weeks.

Hair loss as a side effect of radiation therapy

Radiation therapy to the head is always a certain hair loss. If the exposure is subject to only a certain part of the head, the hair will fall only on her. But it happens that the hair loss is noted on the opposite side of the head, from whence come the rays.

When treatment ends, your hair resumes its growth. They may be different or nonuniform thickness, have a different tint or pattern change (direct were - become curly).

Hair care

During treatment, the need to wash your hair carefully so as not to hurt the skin. It is necessary to use warm or cold water, children or perfumed shampoo.

It is better not to use hair dryer, blow dry your hair gently with a soft towel or allow to dry naturally.

As hats, you can use hats, scarves, bandanas, wigs.

To make it easier to cope with hair loss, the situation seemed less dramatic, it is possible to understand the short hair before treatment.

Nausea as a consequence of post-radiotherapy

Irradiation of the lower part of the brain can trigger nausea. This is rare side effect of radiation therapy. Nausea can last for several weeks following completion of therapy. Medications, diet and sometimes additional treatments to help improve the condition.


Nausea successfully controlled with antiemetics. The radiation oncologist can prescribe them. Some take pills for 20-60 minutes prior to the start of treatment, and other regularly throughout the day.

While some drugs are not effective, they can help others.

Complementary therapies

To control symptoms such as nausea and vomiting, successfully using relaxation techniques, hypnotherapy and acupuncture.

Recommendations on diet

Food can have a major impact on the state:

  1. Avoid eating or cooking, when a person feels sick.
  2. It is not necessary to eat fried, fatty foods with a strong odor.
  3. If the smell of cooking or cause irritation, can be eaten cold or slightly warm food.
  4. You can eat several small meals and snacks every day, thoroughly chew your food.
  5. It should have a small amount of a few hours before the start of treatment.
  6. You need to drink plenty of fluids, in small sips, slowly throughout the day.
  7. It is necessary to avoid filling the stomach plenty of fluids before a meal.

Worsening of symptoms as a consequence of post-radiotherapy

In some people, the symptoms caused by a brain tumor, worse after starting treatment for a while. This should not lead to thoughts that the treatment does not work or the tumor grows.

Radiation therapy in the brain can trigger a short term swelling in the treatment area, which leads to increased pressure. Accordingly, symptoms worsen for a while - there are headaches, nausea, cramps. The doctor prescribes steroids and swelling goes away. After treatment the steroid dose is gradually reduced. If you can not take steroids for any reason it can be offered targeted therapy - Avastin, which lowers the pressure in the brain by altering the development of blood vessels around the tumor.

Effects after radiotherapy of breast

Swallowing problems during and after radiotherapy

Irradiation in breast cancer can cause swelling and soreness in the throat. There are difficulties in swallowing solid food. To resolve this problem, use a mild, simple diet. Excluded products irritating throat (crackers, spicy foods, hot drinks, alcohol, etc.). Apply medication to reduce pain - painkillers, rinse with aspirin.

Nausea after radiation therapy

Radiotherapy can cause nausea, have exposure affects the region, located close to the stomach. Mainly nausea manifests itself in a mild form, can last for several weeks after treatment. State help control medications, diet and some extra treatments previously mentioned.

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