Woman and Oncologist - Rahway, NJ - Rahway Regional Cancer Center

The Side Effects of Radiation Oncology

When deciding your best course of treatment, one of the most important factors to consider is the potential side effects. Radiation oncology tends to have fewer side effects compared to other types of treatment, like chemotherapy. However, there are still some side effects to be aware of as you prepare to start your first round of radiation at Rahway Regional Cancer Center.

Common Side Effects

Everyone reacts differently to radiation therapy. Some people have no side effects at all, while others have a more severe response. They typically vary based on the type of cancer, where it’s located in the body, the dosage of radiation being used and the patient’s overall health. While most side effects are short term, there’s always a risk for long-term, or late-term, side effects to develop.

In general, the two most common radiation oncology side effects are fatigue and skin problems, like dry, itchy, blistering or peeling skin. Because radiation is a local treatment, these skin problems usually only occur at the site of the cancer. For example, if a patient receives radiation therapy for cancer in the arm, the skin on the arm may become red or irritated. Hair loss in that area may also occur. But these side effects are short-term and typically go away after treatment ends.

Site-Specific Side Effects

Depending on the location the radiation is being aimed at, the patient may also experience the following side effects:

  • Head and neck: Dry mouth, stiffness in the jaw, nausea, swelling, tooth decay, difficulty swallowing and mouth and gum sores
  • Chest: Shortness of breath, shoulder stiffness, difficulty swallowing, breast or nipple soreness, radiation fibrosis and radiation pneumonitis
  • Stomach and abdomen: Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea
  • Pelvis: Diarrhea, loss of bladder control, rectal bleeding, sexual problems, infertility, changes in menstruation and symptoms of menopause

What to Expect at Rahway Regional Cancer Center

At Rahway Regional Cancer Center, Dr. Eric Karp uses advanced technology and world-leading treatment planning software to help minimize the side effects of radiation oncology. Throughout treatment, he and his team are available to help you cope with any side effects and make sure you feel as comfortable as possible. If you do experience a severe reaction, he’ll adjust your treatment plan accordingly.

If you have any questions or would like to learn more about what to expect from radiation therapy, you’re welcome to contact Rahway Regional Cancer Center at 732-382-5550.