Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy (also called radiotherapy) uses a controlled dose of radiation to kill cancer cells or damage them so they cannot grow, multiply or spread. It can be delivered externally or internally.

Learn more about:

Side effects of radiation therapy

Side effects often relate to the part of the body treated, and may include:

  • fatigue – your body uses a lot of energy dealing with the effects of radiation. Many people feel very tired during and after treatment
  • skin – may be very sensitive or painful to touch
  • appetite loss – you may lose your appetite and lose weight
  • hair loss – you may lose some or all hair – on your scalp, face or body – during treatment. Usually it grows back and returns to normal after radiation therapy has finished.

Radiation therapy to the pelvic area

May be used for cancer of the bladder, bowel, cervix, ovary, uterus, vulva, prostate, or rectum.

The radiation oncologist will try to avoid the ovaries, especially if you have not yet been through menopause. If radiation does affect the ovaries, they’ll stop producing female hormones. This can cause menopausal symptoms, and your periods may become irregular or stop. Your periods may return after treatment is over, but sometimes infertility will be permanent.

For more on this, see Fertility issues.

Pelvic radiation therapy can cause short-term inflammation of the vagina and vulva. Scar tissue from treatment can make the vagina shorter and narrower (vaginal stenosis). Sexual intercourse may be painful, but using vaginal dilators or vibrators after treatment ends can help. Using water-based lubricants and moisturisers is also useful. In some cases oestrogen-based creams are prescribed.

For more on this, see Coping with vaginal changes

Radiation therapy may also cause bowel problems, such as diarrhoea. This is usually temporary, but it is sometimes permanent.

Radiation therapy to the breast 

This can cause the skin to become red and dry and develop a sunburnt look. It usually returns to normal 4–6 weeks after treatment. Radiation therapy to the armpit may increase the chance of developing lymphoedema in the arm.

Some people develop fluid in the breast that can last up to 12 months, or in some cases, up to five years. Changes often can’t be noticed under clothing. If you’re unhappy with how the breast looks, talk to your doctor about your options (e.g. you may be able to have an operation to reduce the size of your other breast).

   — Donna

Radiation therapy to the testicles 

This can damage the blood vessels and nerves that help produce erections, causing temporary or permanent erectile dysfunction. It may also make the urethra inflamed, so ejaculating might be painful for some weeks.

Reduced sperm production is common after radiation therapy, and it may be temporary or permanent. If you think you might want to father a child in the future, ask about storing sperm before starting treatment.

Click on the icon below to download a PDF booklet on radiation therapy.

Printed copies are available for free - Call 13 11 20 to order

Instructions for downloading and reading EPUB files

Apple devices

The iBooks application must be installed on your Apple device before you can read the EPUB.
Different ways to download an EPUB file to your Apple device:

  • email EPUB files to yourself and transfer the attachment to iBooks.
  • copy EPUB files into DropBox (or a similar service) and use the DropBox app to send them to iBooks.
  • open EPUB files directly from Mobile Safari and open them in iBooks, where they are saved automatically by downloading the EPUB from the website.

Need more help? Visit: http://support.apple.com/kb/HT4059


To download an EPUB file to your Kobo from a Windows computer:

  • download and save the EPUB directly onto your desktop.
  • connect your Kobo to your computer using the USB cable and tap “Connect” on your eReader.
  • select “Open folder to view files” to view the contents of your Kobo.
  • navigate to where you have stored your EPUB file in “Finder”, in documents or downloads, and drag and drop it into the Kobo window. You can now disconnect your Kobo to read the eBook.

To download an EPUB to your Kobo from a Mac:

  • download and save the EPUB directly onto your desktop.
  • connect your Kobo to your computer using the USB cable and tap “Connect” on your eReader.
  • open your “Finder” application.
  • select “Kobo eReader” from the listed devices to view the contents of your Kobo.
  • navigate to where you have stored your EPUB file in “Finder”, probably in documents or downloads, and drag and drop it into the Kobo window. You can now disconnect your Kobo to read the eBook.

Turn on your Kobo and your EPUB will be located in “eBooks”, while a PDF will be located in “Documents”.
Need more information? Visit: http://www.kobo.com/help/koboaura/response/?id=3784&type=3

Sony Reader

To download an EPUB file on your Sony Reader™:

  • ensure you have already installed the Reader™ Library for PC/Mac software
  • select the eBook you want from our website and click the link to download it.
  • connect the Reader™ to your computer.
  • open the Reader™ Library software and click “Library” in the left-hand pane and select the eBook to view it.

Need more help? Visit: https://au.readerstore.sony.com/apps_and_devices/

Amazon Kindle 2nd Generation devices

EPUB files can’t be read on the Amazon Kindle™. However, like most eReaders, Kindle™ 2nd Generation devices are able to display PDFs. We recommend that you download the PDF version of this booklet if you would like to read it on a Kindle™.
To transfer a PDF to your Kindle™ via USB cable from your computer or Mac:

  • download the PDF directly onto your computer.
  • connect the USB cable to your computer’s USB port, and the micro USB end of the cable to your Kindle™. Note: the Kindle™ won’t be available as a reading device while it is connected to your computer until it has been disconnected.
  • open the Kindle™ drive and several folders will appear inside. The “Documents” folder is where you will need to copy or drag the PDF to.
  • safely eject your Kindle™ from your computer and unplug the USB cable. Your content will appear on the Home Screen.

Kindle also provides a Kindle Personal Documents Service that allows users to send documents as an attachment directly to your eReader. For more information on this service, visit http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html/ref=help_search_1-1?ie=UTF8&nodeId=200767340&qid=1395967989&sr=1-1
For more information on accessing a PDF on your Kindle™, visit www.amazon.com/manageyourkindle, log in to your account and click on Personal Document Settings.
Need more help? Visit https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=200375630

Android and PC

You can also download and open eBooks on Android devices and PCs with appropriate apps or software installed. Suitable eReader apps for Android include Google Play Books, FBReader and Moon+ Reader. Suitable software for PCs include Calibre and Adobe Digital Editions.

This information was last reviewed in May 2019
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