Common Side Effects of Radiation Therapy


Fatigue is feeling tired physically, mentally, and emotionally and is a common side effect of radiation. This may persist throughout the length of your treatment and gradually worsen near the end of therapy. Fatigue caused by radiation treatment (or the cancer itself) is different from the fatigue of everyday life and may not improve with rest.

Ways to cope with fatigue:

– Save your energy for the most important things or reduce non-essential tasks

– Take short naps or rest breaks

– Sleep 7-8 hours each night

– Try easier or shorter versions of activities you enjoy

Learn more about complementary cancer therapies
to help alleviate or manage side effects

Skin Changes

Skin changes are one of the most common side effects when during treatment. Your skin in the radiation treatment area might look red, irritated, swollen, sunburned, or tanned. After a few weeks, your skin might become dry, flaky, or itchy, or it may peel. This is sometimes called radiation dermatitis. It’s important to let your cancer care team know about any skin changes.

Skin Care

– Apply Aquaphor, Cetaphil, Aveeno, or Eucerin cream at least twice per day

In some cases during radiation treatment, physicians may prescribe soaks or steroid creams to help alleviate skin side effects

– Keep the area covered and out of the sun

– Avoid tight fitting clothing in treatment area

– Avoid scrubbing the area, cleanse with a gentle soap (no scent) and warm water

– Avoid extreme heat or extreme cold to the treatment area. Do not use heating pads, ice packs, etc.