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Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer CenterVanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center


Radiation Side Effects

What are the most common side effects of radiation?

Red, itching, peeling skin – happens after about 4 weeks of radiation treatment in the area that is being treated. You should report any skin problems to your nurse or doctor.

Fatigue: Over the course of your treatment you may feel more and more tired than usual. For more information, see the fatigue section.

Loss of Appetite: Eating may become difficult because you do not feel hungry. This is a very common side effect if the area being treated is your mouth or stomach. One strategy is to try to eat several small meals during the day. For more information, see the loss of appetite section.

Difficulty in swallowing: This may occur if you are receiving treatment on your neck.

Tell your health care provider if you experience any side effects from treatment.

Taking care of your skin:

Your skin may become pink, itchy, blister and flake like a sunburn towards the end of your treatment.

What to do:

  • Do not use soap on the marks.
  • Wear clothing that will not rub the treatment area, like loose-fitting, cotton clothing.
  • Protect the treatment area from sunshine and extremes of temperature.
  • If your skin itches, resist the desire to scratch. If it is extremely difficult to do that, please contact your health care provider.
  • Unless instructed by a health care provider, DO NOT put anything on the treatment area – like creams, lotions, powder, or makeup.
  • Always check with your health care provider before shaving any part of your treatment area.

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