What is radiation fibrosis?

Garry Choy, MD
Diagnostic Radiology

Radiation fibrosis is the result of prior radiation exposure that results in scarring of an organ such as breasts, lungs, etc.  Post radiation treatment fibrosis is the typical cause.  


Dr Camille

Simply put, fibrosis is a thickening or scarring of connective tissue and is often seen following injury and resolution of an inflammatory process; such as an incision from surgery, an accident that left an open wound (can be felt after someone had "stitches" to repair an injury as a thickness), infections, etc., the principles of scarring remains the same, only in this case, it is caused by Radiation. It is progressive and considered irreversible.

The extent (thickness) of the fibrosis will vary. That is, Radiation Therapy to an area after surgery will be "thicker" or scar more, than if no surgery was performed to the area prior to Radiation therapy. Surgery causes scarring, and adding Radiation to the area will increase this effect. Fibrosis is also Radiation dose dependent - low dose will have very minimal/no scarring - depending on the area of the body being treated. Several studies have looked at Pentoxyfylline and vitamin E to decrease fibrosis, but the use of these products remains controversial. Other protocols continue to be developed to address fibrosis. Be sure to discuss this with your Oncology Team!  

Radiation fibrosis is a scarring of the lungs, breasts, or other tissue or organs, resulting from overexposure to radiation. It is most often related to radiation therapy during cancer treatment. Prolonged exposure to radiation causes the healthy tissue to inflame and eventually scar. Radiation fibrosis is generally considered irreversible, but new treatments are being developed.

Continue Learning about Restrictive Lung Diseases

Restrictive Lung Diseases

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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.