Radiotherapy to the head and neck can cause temporary side effects such as a sore mouth or throat and difficulty swallowing. Side effects can be mild or more troublesome, depending on the dose of radiotherapy and the length of your treatment. They are usually more severe if you have radiotherapy combined with chemotherapy.
Side effects usually begin to develop after about two weeks of radiotherapy. They may continue to affect you for 7–10 days after treatment ends before gradually improving. Most people find that side effects have noticeably improved 6–8 weeks after radiotherapy has ended.
Sometimes radiotherapy can cause long-lasting side effects or new side effects that develop months or even years later. These are called long-term effects and late effects. Two of the most common late effects are a dry mouth and an increased risk of tooth decay. It’s very important to follow a regular mouthcare routine during and after radiotherapy.
Your specialist can tell you whether your treatment may cause any late effects. You’ll also be told about things you can do to help reduce the risk of having problems.