Radiotherapy - Side Effects
Acute side effects: There is damage to epithelial surfaces of the skin, mouth, pharynx and bowel mucosa. Apart from soreness, diarrhea and nausea are commonly seen. The recovery is usually quite quick but in some cases the patient may need painkillers and nutritional support
Odema & erythema: swelling of the soft tissues is encountered during radiotherapy. Red rashes are seen in the area of treatment. Surgical intervention may be considered prior to treatment with radiation or the patient is given steroids to reduce swelling
Infertility: The gonads (ovaries and testicles) are very sensitive to radiation. They will be unable to produce gametes following the radiotherapy
Long term side effects
Fibrosis: some of the tissues become less elastic due to the treatment
Hair loss: in case of radiotherapy to the head and neck region there is permanent hair loss
Dryness: Dry mouth (xerostomia) and dry eyes (xerophthalmia) are the common problems witnessed after radiotherapy
Secondary malignancies: Radiation is a cause of cancer, and secondary malignancies are seen in a small minority of patients, generally many years after they have received a curative course of radiation treatment.
Fetal damage is seen in case of pregnant woman
Radiotherapy lowers the immunity status of the patient and increases the susceptibility of infection.
Skin problems: various levels of skin problems are encountered such as skin pain, sloughing of the outer layer of the skin (desquamation), hyperpigmentation, itching (pruritus) etc