Understanding And Managing The Side-Effects Of Radiotherapy


When undergoing radiotherapy as part of your cancer treatment, it’s essential to be prepared for the potential side-effects. While they can vary depending on the type of radiotherapy, the area being treated and your individual response, it’s crucial to know what to expect and how to manage them effectively.

Common Side-Effects Of Radiotherapy

Side-effects should be expected when it comes to cancer treatment, but some are more common than others. Look out for fatigue as this is one of the most common and can begin to set in a few weeks after treatment and can be quite debilitating. To manage, plan your day to include plenty of rest breaks and make sure to stay well hydrated alongside a rich diet.

Another to look out for is skin reactions on parts of the body where treatment is occurring. It can result in red, dry or itchy patches that may peel or blister, but it is vital not to pick or agitate these as it can do more damage over time. To cope with this, use gentle skincare products and avoid tight clothing to protect these areas.

While side effects are common, some are more specialised to certain treatments as nausea or vomiting can occur if the treatment is near the abdomen or stomach. In order to handle this, look for anti-nausea medication or dietary adjustments.

For patients receiving radiation in the throat or oesophagus, swallowing issues can arise. To combat this, begin consuming soft, moist foods to make it easier throughout the process. In addition to this, staying well hydrated keeps the palate free from dryness while not eating and can help with swallowing foods when it comes time to eat.

Long-term Side Effects

While most side-effects of radiotherapy are temporary and resolve after treatment, some may persist in the long term. These can include changes in skin pigmentation, reduced range of motion in treated areas and a slightly increased risk of developing cancer in the future. It’s essential to discuss the potential long-term side-effects with your medical team.

Communication With Your Medical Team

The key to effectively managing the side-effects is open communication with your doctor. They can provide personalised guidance, recommend over-the-counter products and prescribe medications to ease symptoms. It’s vital to report any side effects promptly so that adjustments to your treatment plan can be made if necessary.

While the side-effects can be challenging, they are manageable. Knowing what to expect and maintaining open communication is essential for a smoother journey. Your doctor is there to support you and with their guidance, you can minimise the impact of side-effects and focus on your path to recovery.