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 severe, depending on the size of the area being treated 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 2 weeks of radiotherapy. They may continue for 7 to 10 days after treatment ends, before slowly improving. Most people notice an improvement in their side effects 6 to 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 is 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. They will also tell you about things you can do to help reduce the risk of having problems.