Common Side EffectsThe three most commonly experienced side effects of radiation therapy are:
Fatigue: All people undergoing radiation therapy experience some degree of fatigue during treatment. Fatigue is a general feeling of being extremely tired. This is the time when you should rely on your support system to help with chores, errands, child care and other tasks. Short naps throughout the day and getting uninterrupted sleep at night really make a difference in your energy level.
How to Combat Appetite Loss During Treatment
- Coping with Taste ChangesHow to Find the Time to Eat 6 Small Meals a Day
Other Radiation Side EffectsThis depends on what type of cancer you have and where you receive treatment on your body. Possible side effects include:
Hair Loss: Hair loss only occurs at the site which is being treated. If you are having radiation therapy on your pelvis, you will not lose hair on your head. But, if you are having treatment for head and neck cancer, there is a good chance you will experience hair loss.
The good news is that in most cases, hair does grow back after treatment.
Decreases in Blood Count: Radiation can cause the lowering of white blood cells and platelets. This can lead to lowered immunity to viruses and bacteria because the white blood cells are what fights off these attackers. Tests will be done on a regular basis to check blood counts and treatment may be altered depending on the results.
While side effects do vary with treatment, where the radiation is being directed will produce different side effects. For instance, treatment to the pelvis may cause fertility problems, and treatment to the head and neck can produce dental problems like cavities.
It is important to ask your physician what side effects are anticipated and how they can be prevented or managed.