Side effects of radiation therapy and ways to manage them
If you experience side effects from your radiation therapy, please tell your care team. We can often provide prescription medications or other suggestions to help you manage side effects. Many side effects go away when treatment is finished.
You may not experience changes initially, but over time, you may start to notice side effects such as:
Reddened or darkened skin
The skin at the treatment site may darken or redden, like a sunburn. A nurse will show you how to take care of your skin to avoid any blistering or peeling.
This reaction may last up to 2 to 3 weeks after your treatment is over. Continue the special care for your skin for about 3 to 4 weeks. Your nurse will schedule a follow-up visit to check on your recovery.
For more severe reactions, we can make a referral to our Supportive Dermatology program.
You may feel more tired by the end of treatment. We encourage you to rest and get 8 hours of sleep every night so that your body can heal. We recommend light exercise like walking and a healthy diet.
You may continue to feel tired even after you finish treatment. Be sure to give yourself enough time to recover. Your nurse will schedule a follow-up visit to check on your recovery.
You may experience headaches during your treatment. Your doctor may prescribe medications for treatment.
Nausea or vomiting
You may experience nausea with your treatment. We can prescribe medications to treat that. We also recommend that you eat bland foods that are easy to digest and don’t upset your stomach like toast, gelatin, and apple juice. Have food at room temperature, not hot or cold.
Eating well helps build your strength during and after radiation therapy. Here are some tips:
- Fluids: water, bouillon, broth, apple juice, clear carbonated drinks, cranberry or grape juice, tea
- Sweets: fruit ices (without pieces of fruit), honey, jelly, ice pops
- Low-fiber food: chicken without skin, cottage cheese, eggs, cooked refined cereal, fish, noodles, potatoes baked or mashed without skin, white bread, white rice
- Fruits, vegetables: asparagus, bananas, canned fruit (applesauce, peaches, pears), vegetable juice
- Snacks: saltine crackers, angel food cake, sherbet or sorbet, yogurt
- High-calorie or high-protein: cream soup, bean soup, milkshakes or smoothies, peanut butter, cheese, nuts, chicken, fish, beef, ice cream, pudding
- Food easy on the stomach: instant oatmeal, broth, fruit drinks, crackers, noodles
Published April 2018
Stanford Health Care © 2018