The most common initial side effects are fatigue (feeling tired) and skin changes. Other early side effects are usually related to the area being treated, such as hair loss and mouth problems when radiation therapy is given to this area. Late side effects can take months or even years to appear. Radiation therapy is a type of cancer treatment that uses beams of intense energy to kill cancer cells.
In most cases, radiation therapy uses x-rays, but protons or other types of energy can also be used. The treated breast may also be rough to the touch, red (like a sunburn), swollen, and itchy. Sometimes, the skin can peel off, as if it had been burned by The doctor may suggest special creams to relieve this discomfort. Before you undergo external-beam radiation therapy, your healthcare team guides you through a planning process to ensure that the radiation reaches the precise point in your body where it's needed.
For example, in rare circumstances, a new cancer (second primary cancer) may develop that is different from the first one treated with radiation years later. External-beam radiation therapy is usually done with a linear accelerator, a machine that directs beams of high-energy radiation into the body. During external beam radiation therapy, you are placed on a table and a large machine moves around you sending beams of radiation to precise points on your body. There are several things you can do to help reduce skin sensitivity during radiation treatment and also to help the skin heal after completing radiation treatment.
During a different type of radiation treatment called brachytherapy (brachytherapy), radiation is applied inside the body. Your fatigue from cancer and radiation therapy is different from other times when you may have felt tired. With any standard radiation therapy, you won't be radioactive when you leave the radiation treatment center. After the planning process, the radiation therapy team decides what type of radiation and what dose you will receive based on the type and stage of your cancer, your general health, and treatment goals.