What are the risks of having external beam radiation therapy?

The list below shows side effects that can happen soon after external beam radiation therapy begins. These can depend on the body part treated. Side effects can be temporary or permanent, but most will go away a few weeks to a few months after the radiation treatments are done.
  • Skin changes (dry or itchy skin, peeling, blisters) in the treatment area
  • Fatigue
  • Diarrhea, nausea, or vomiting (depending on the area being treated)
  • Drop in blood counts
  • Hair loss in the treatment area
  • Trouble swallowing or mouth problems
  • Sexual changes
  • Urinary or bladder changes
Some effects can show up months or years later. These depend on the body part treated and how much radiation you received. These effects can be temporary or permanent. They include:
  • Infertility
  • Joint problems
  • Lymphedema (swelling in your arms or legs)
  • Mouth problems
  • A secondary cancer
Radiation can be harmful to an unborn child. Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or could be pregnant.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.