With radiation therapy, serious side effects can occur. They are usually caused by damage to normal cells during the course of treatment. Side effects are typically cumulative, which means they can develop over the course of your treatment. They can be minor or severe, and depend on the size and location of the tumor, disease state, your general medical condition, and the treatment technique that is used.
Two of the most common side effects associated with radiation therapy are irritation or damage to the skin near the treatment site, and fatigue. Skin irritation may include dryness, itching, peeling, or blistering. Fatigue, for some patients, may mean feeling slightly worn out, while other patients experience severe exhaustion. Other side effects are usually specific to the type of cancer being treated, such as hair loss or sore throat when the head and neck region is treated, or urinary problems when the lower abdomen is treated. For more details about the side effects of radiation therapy, ask your radiation oncologist to explain what may occur during your particular treatment.