Side Effects of Radiation Therapy

Radiation side effects are typically temporary and limited to the site of treatment.

The length of a patient’s treatment plan determines how severe the side effects will become. To eliminate the tumor, powerful high-energy rays pass through the skin, muscles, and tissue before the intended target is reached. The radiation may damage healthy cells and also cause a patient to experience nausea, bladder irritation, fatigue, and varying changes to the skin. These sorts of radiation side effects may last up to eight weeks. There have been cases were patients’ side effects became more chronic and lasted months or years after treatment was completed.

Protecting the surrounding tissue that may be exposed to radiation is a top priority for doctors. Currently, there are several advanced methods in delivering radiation therapy that can lessen some side effects and shield healthy tissue. Radiation side effects usually are limited to the treatment site, while chemotherapy may affect a patient’s entire body.

Possible Radiation Side Effects

Skin Problems

Depending on the area of treatment, patients who receive radiation therapy usually report skin irritation. Medical professionals will help manage such irritations by providing information on proper skin care in order to alleviate pain. Most patients report that their irritation resembles sunburn, including redness, a tight feeling at the treatment site, swelling, and rashes. Patients should avoid scratching irritated skin or applying any lotions. Keeping the area clean and moist will assist in healing.

Bladder Irritation

Patients who receive radiation in their abdomen region typically report experiencing bladder irritation. Radiation therapy side effects include cystitis, inflammation of the bladder, and inability to completely empty the bladder or control the flow of urine. Doctors will prescribe prescription medications to treat any infection-related issues and most side effects usually are resolved within a few weeks after treatment. Consuming plenty of water after radiation therapy is crucial to preventing additional irritation to the bladder.


A frequent side effect of radiation therapy is fatigue. Feelings of tiredness and fatigue usually completely disappear several weeks after the conclusion of the radiation treatment plan. Such fatigue commonly is reported to be the most extreme during the two to four hours after a session of radiation therapy.

Nausea and Vomiting

The least common of all radiation side effects are nausea and vomiting. These side effects appear more frequent in patients who receive radiation to the abdomen area and those who are receiving chemotherapy. Doctors can prescribe anti-nausea medications to help treat mesothelioma patients who experience these effects after radiation therapy.


Pleural mesothelioma patients are at the highest risk of experiencing severe complications from radiation therapy. Since a patient’s lungs are the target area for radiation, scar tissue may collect on an infected lung after several sessions. Radiation also can cause compression of the heart and inflammation to the lining of the lungs and heart.

Cardiac toxicity can be caused by specific chemotherapeutic drugs that are usually administered alongside radiation therapy in mesothelioma treatments. Radiation to the chest region also can result in cardiac toxicity. This condition reduces the ability of the heart to pump enough blood to the rest of the body.


Other types of radiation therapy: Brachytherapy, External Beam Radiation Therapy, Image-Guided Radiation Therapy, Intensify-Modulated Radiation Therapy, Three-Dimensional Radiation Treatment, Proton Therapy