Side Effects of Radiation Treatment

Radiation treatment is used to treat many types of cancer. Like many medical treatments, there are benefits as well as side effects. How your body responds to radiation may be different than someone else. The side effects can be different for each person.


Possible Radiation Treatment Side Effects:

  • Skin irritation
  • Fatigue


Skin Irritation 

If you are experiencing redness, irritation, blistering, dryness,  or skin looks sunburned, you may have what’s known as radiation dermatitis. If you notice these or any other skin issues, be sure to discuss them with your healthcare team. They can help suggest ways to mitigate these side effects.


What can you do?

  1. Wear loose fitting clothing and soft fabrics.
  2. Wash hands, skin with lukewarm water. You may find that hot and/or cold will irritate your skin even more.
  3. Always use sun protection; your skin will be more sensitive to sunlight.


If your skin irritation looks unusual or prevents you from doing the things you do on a day-to-day basis, talk with your healthcare provider.



The fatigue you feel as a result of radiation treatment is different from every day fatigue. Getting extra sleep will not necessarily make it go away. And, it may feel different from one day to the next, making it hard to plan around. If your fatigue is keeping you from doing day-to-day activities, talk with your doctor. There are things he or she can do to help.


What can you do?

  1. Make sure you are getting plenty of sleep.
  2. Pay attention to what you are eating and try to make the best choices.
  3. Learn to conserve energy and be the most active when you feel like it.
  4. Strike the right balance. Getting too much rest can actually make you feel more tired.
  5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.


Will radiation cause my hair to fall out?

Radiation will not cause your hair to fall out, unless you are having treatments for the scalp or brain. If your hair does fall out, it may only be in patches. You might choose to cut your hair at that point. Your hair will grow back. It may come back thinner or a different texture, but you will have hair again.


Fatigue and skin problems are the most common side effects of radiation. There may be others, depending on the location of your cancer and treatment. Remember to speak with your doctor for specific questions about your treatment.