Possible side effects

Radiotherapy often causes tiredness. Other side effects depend on the part of your body being treated. Side effects can be mild or might cause more trouble. Your cancer doctor will tell you what to expect.

Common side effects include:

  • Tiredness – this usually begins towards the end of treatment and can continue for several weeks after.
  • Feeling sick (nausea) – your doctor can prescribe anti-sickness drugs if this happens.
  • Skin reaction – skin in the treated area may become red, darker, sore or itchy. Ask your radiotherapy staff for advice.
  • Hair loss – this only affects the area being treated and is usually temporary.

Most side effects disappear gradually once treatment is over. Rarely radiotherapy causes long-term side effects. Always tell your cancer doctor and specialist nurse about your side effects during and after radiotherapy so they can help.

Radiotherapy does not make you radioactive and it is safe for you to be with other people, including children, throughout your treatment.

Possible side effects

Radiotherapy often causes tiredness. You will also lose hair in the treated area. Other side effects will depend on the part of your body being treated. Treatment to the tummy area (abdomen) can make you feel sick or be sick, and can cause diarrhoea. If you have radiotherapy to the neck, it can make your mouth or throat dry and sore.

Side effects can be mild or they might cause you more trouble, depending on how much treatment you have. Your cancer doctor will tell you what to expect. Most side effects disappear gradually once your radiotherapy treatment is over.

Always tell your cancer doctor and specialist nurse about your side effects during and after radiotherapy. They can prescribe drugs to control them and give you advice on how to manage them.

Radiotherapy can have long-term side effects. These are rare and will vary depending on the part of the body treated. Your cancer doctor can tell you more.


Tiredness

I am almost recovered now, ten days on from radiotherapy. And I'm sure I will be fine in another couple of days.

Raquel


Feeling sick (nausea)

If you feel sick, your doctor can prescribe anti-sickness (anti-emetic) drugs. If you don’t feel like eating, you can replace meals with nutritious high-calorie drinks. These are available from most chemists or they can be prescribed by your doctor.


Skin reaction

During your treatment, avoid using soaps, perfumes and lotions on your skin, other than the ones advised by the radiotherapy staff.

After a few treatments, skin around the area being treated may become red or darker. It may also feel sore or itchy. If you develop a skin reaction, tell the radiotherapy staff as soon as possible. They will advise you on the best way to manage it.


Hair loss

Although radiotherapy can cause hair loss, this only happens in the area being treated. For example, if you have radiotherapy to the lymph nodes in your neck, you may lose the hair on the back of the neck. Radiotherapy to the lymph nodes in the chest may make the hair on your chest fall out.

Hair usually grows back after treatment.

Radiotherapy does not make you radioactive and it is perfectly safe for you to be with other people, including children, throughout your treatment.

We have more information about coping with these side effects.

Watch our hair loss video playlist

In these videos, people with experience of cancer and hair loss share their stories. You can also watch tutorials on wigs, headwear and eye make up.

Watch our hair loss video playlist

In these videos, people with experience of cancer and hair loss share their stories. You can also watch tutorials on wigs, headwear and eye make up.

Back to Radiotherapy

Who might I meet?

You will meet many different specialists before, during and after radiotherapy treatment.