radiotherapy side effects

Written by: Dr. Joan Carles Trallero Fort
Edited by: Noelia Pino García

Side effects of radiation therapy depend, among other things, of the total dose administered and individual susceptibility.


Among the general side effects include:

  • Tiredness (asthenia) may occur during treatment, but may also be due to other factors related to the disease and other treatments are being performed.
  • Skin reactions: regardless of the radiated area, the skin will always be the gateway, and redness or erythema appear 2-3 weeks.
  • Malnutrition due to side effects that hinder or prevent intake ( in addition to anorexia, if any, characteristic of the disease).

Although radiation is localized also it affects healthy tissues included in the radiation field. Changes or radiation causes lesions in these tissues can lead to side effects.


Side effects of radiotherapy according to the radiated area

Head and neck:

  • Hair loss: alopecia reversible or permanent depending on the dose
  • Effects on the mouth:
    • Mucositis, aphthous ulcers
    • Fungal infection (candidiasis)
    • Dry mouth (xerostomia) and loss of taste (dysgeusia)


  • Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia) due to involvement of the esophageal mucosa
  • Dry cough and shortness of breath (dyspnea)


  • Nausea and vomiting, when the stomach area is radiated
  • Diarrhoea: one of the most common side effects
  • Urinary tract symptoms: dysuria and urinary frequency


Side effects of radiation therapy in children and adults

The effects will be similar, but according to age and the dose will have to be careful with possible problems with bone growth, fertility, cognitive problems (when the brain is radiated) or even risk of second tumors.


Treating side effects of radiotherapy

Most side effects go away with time. Some can alleviated with proper treatment, so it is recommended to go to a professional of Medicine to Address that you can make appropriate advice. It is also important to follow a few tips to help facilitate tolerance of toxicity.


Side effects of radiation therapy long term

Side effects that radiation has long term are a minority. Among those who persist in time highlights the alopecia, which may be irreversible in some cases depending on the dose administered radiotherapy.

It is important to take special care with fertility, since the ovaries and testes are particularly sensitive to radiation and whether they are in the treated field radiation therapy can cause sterility. The attitude to follow each case must be evaluated individually.


Edited by Noelia García Pino

*Translated with Google translator. We apologize for any imperfection

By Dr. Joan Carles Trallero Fort
Home medical

Renowned specialist in Family Medicine, Dr. Trallero Fort is the medical director of Suanity center, a prestigious center specializing in oncology, palliative care and chronic diseases. He is also a consultant for Palliative Care at the Hospital de Barcelona (SCIAS). It holds a Master of Palliative Care at the University of Barcelona and the Institut Català d'Oncologia. Regular contributor to the media, has combined his profession with teaching.

*Translated with Google translator. We apologize for any imperfection

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