What are the possible side effects of radiotherapy?

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Radiation therapy is associated with various side effects that differ widely from person to person, depending on the type of radiation, the dose, and the part of the body the radiation targets. There are two main categories of side effects, early and late. Early side effects generally include fatigue, skin problems and hair loss, both of which are temporary. Late side effects are usually more serious, beginning after radiotherapy has been completed, and they can be permanent.

In particular, side effects following radiation therapy for the prostate, brain and breast may include:

  • Prostate cancer – general fatigue, frequency and urgency in urination, burning sensation when urinating, inflammation of the bladder, increased bowel movements
  • Brain cancer – exhaustion, hair loss, headaches, dizziness, nausea and vomiting (rare)
  • Breast cancer – redness of the skin in the radiation field, mild fatigue
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