- Cancer Information
- Cancer treatment
- Radiation therapy
- Managing radiation therapy side effects
- How long side effects may last
How long side effects may last
Radiation therapy can cause side effects during and just after treatment. These are called short-term or acute effects. It can also cause long-term or late effects months or years down the track. Most side effects go away after treatment. But sometimes radiation therapy can cause long term or late effects months or years down the track.
During treatment, tell your radiation therapy team about any side effects, as side effects can usually be controlled with the right care and medicine.
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Side effects often build up slowly during treatment and it could be a few days or weeks before you notice anything. Often the side effects are worse at the end of treatment, or even a week or two afterwards, because it takes time for the healthy cells to recover from radiation. Most side effects are temporary and go away in time, usually within a few weeks of treatment finishing.
Radiation therapy can also cause side effects that last for months or years after treatment. These long-term effects are usually mild, they may come and go, and they may not have any major impact on your daily life. However, sometimes they may be more serious. Late side effects may go away or improve on their own, but some may be permanent and need to be treated or managed.
Very rarely, years after successful treatment, patients can develop a new unrelated cancer in or near the area treated. The risk of this late effect is very low, but other factors, such as continuing to smoke or very rare genetic conditions, can increase this risk.
Radiation therapy to the chest, particularly when combined with chemotherapy, may lead to an increased risk of heart problems. Newer radiation therapy techniques have reduced the risk, however, talk to your doctor about your heart health. If you develop heart problems later in life, make sure you let your doctors know you had radiation therapy.
I read a lot about all the negative side effects you might get from radiation therapy, but I’ve had no long-term side effects.Derek
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Prof June Corry, Radiation Oncologist, GenesisCare, St Vincent’s Hospital, VIC; Prof Bryan Burmeister, Senior Radiation Oncologist, GenesisCare Fraser Coast, Hervey Bay Hospital, and The University of Queensland, QLD; Sandra Donaldson, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; Jane Freeman, Accredited Practising Dietitian (Cancer specialist), Canutrition, NSW; Sinead Hanley, Consumer; David Jolly, Senior Medical Physicist, Icon Cancer Centre Richmond, VIC; Christine Kitto, Consumer; A/Prof Grace Kong, Nuclear Medicine Physician, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; A/Prof Sasha Senthi, Radiation Oncologist, The Alfred Hospital and Monash University, VIC; John Spurr, Consumer; Chris Twyford, Clinical Nurse Consultant, Radiation Oncology, Cancer Rapid Assessment Unit and Outpatients, Canberra Hospital, ACT; Gabrielle Vigar, Nurse Unit Manager, Radiation Oncology/Cancer Outpatients, Cancer Program, Royal Adelaide Hospital, SA.
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