Side Effects of Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy may have both localized side effects in the treated area and more general side effects that affect your overall feeling of well-being. The majority are temporary and can often be relieved with medication and natural therapies your doctors and other caregivers recommend for you. Internal radiation, such as MammoSite radiation therapy, generally has fewer side effects than external radiation therapy.

Here are some of the most common side effects of radiation therapy for breast cancer:

    Fatigue. This is one of the most common symptoms of radiation treatment, especially in the later weeks of treatment and for sometime afterward. Resting is important, but many doctors also advise people undergoing treatment to remain reasonably active, matching their activities to their energy level.

    Nutrition Therapy

    A healthful diet rich in brightly colored fruits and vegetables and cold-water fish contains compounds that may enhance the potency of radiation therapy while protecting healthy cells. Learn more about how natural therapies can fortify your fight against cancer in Your Guide to Cancer Care.

    Skin irritation. People receiving external radiation may develop red, dry, tender, or itchy skin in the treated area. As treatment progresses, the skin may become moist and weepy. Most changes to the skin are temporary and will gradually heal once treatment is over. However, you may experience permanent changes to skin color where you received radiation, or more or less sensitivity of the breast skin than you did previously. Your doctor may prescribe special creams and topical medications to apply to the treated area. Here are steps you can take to prevent infection and help your skin heal:

    • Expose the skin to the air as much as possible
    • Ask your doctor before using any deodorants, lotions, or creams he or she didn’t prescribe on the affected area
    • Wear loose-fitting, non-binding cotton clothes next to irritated skin

    Changes to the breast. A few people may find that the treated breast is firmer after therapy. Others may find that it’s bigger, because of fluid buildup, while some may notice that it’s smaller, because of tissue changes caused by the radiation.

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