You may develop side effects during radiotherapy for a brain tumour. These usually improve over a few weeks or months after treatment. Your doctor, nurse or radiographer will let you know what to expect.
Some people find the side effects get worse for a short time after their treatment has finished. You may feel low or worry your treatment isn’t working. But it is usually a reaction to the radiotherapy or it may be because your steroids have been reduced or stopped.
Let your doctor or nurse know straight away if your side effects get worse during or after treatment. They can give you advice on how to manage them.
Radiotherapy can make you tired so try to get as much rest as you can, especially if you have to travel a long way for treatment each day. Tiredness can continue for several months after treatment has finished. Balancing rest and activity throughout the day is important as your body needs rest to recover from the treatment.
Some people get extreme tiredness after radiotherapy to the brain. This can happen about four to eight weeks after treatment. You may have very little energy, feel drowsy and spend a lot of time sleeping. It gradually gets better over a few weeks.
Some people have headaches during radiotherapy. Let your doctor know if this happens. They can prescribe painkillers to control these. Radiotherapy can cause swelling and increased pressure. If your headache is caused by this, your doctor will prescribe steroids to treat it.
You will lose the hair in the area being treated and there may be some hair loss on the opposite side of your head where the radiation beams exit. Your hair will usually grow back within two to three months of finishing treatment. Sometimes it grows back a slightly different colour or is thinner than before.
We have more information about coping with hair loss.
Your skin in the treated area may get red, dry, itchy and feel sensitive or sore. Dark skin may get darker. Your nurse or radiographer will give you advice on looking after your skin. If it becomes sore and flaky, let them know. Your doctor can prescribe creams to help.
Here are some tips to help with skin irritation:
- Don’t put any creams on the treated area of your skin without checking with your nurse or radiographer.
- Wash your hair or scalp gently with lukewarm or cool water. Use non-perfumed shampoo or soap.
- Pat your hair or scalp dry gently with a soft towel. Don’t rub it and avoid using a hair dryer.
- Wear a scarf or hat to protect your head from the sun or cold.
- If you shave your head, use an electric razor instead of wet shaving.
Skin reactions usually start to get better two to four weeks after radiotherapy.
Your skin in the treated area may be more sensitive to the sun after treatment. You may find that this area burns more easily. Take extra care in the sun during treatment and for at least a year afterwards. Cover up or use suncream with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30.
Your doctor can prescribe anti-sickness drugs (anti-emetics) to help. If you don’t feel like eating, you can try replacing meals with nutritious, high-calorie drinks. You can get these from most chemists and some can be prescribed by your doctor.