Radiation therapy is an effective treatment for cancer, but it can also cause damage to healthy tissue. This damage, known as late effect radiation tissue damage, can occur months or even years after treatment has ended. The most common symptoms include fatigue, pain, and skin changes such as dryness, redness, and itching. In some cases, the damage can be permanent, but most people eventually recover. The risk of developing late effect radiation tissue damage depends on several factors, including the type and location of the cancer, the dose and length of radiation therapy, and the patient’s age and overall health. While there is no way to completely prevent this type of damage, patients can reduce their risk by following their doctor’s recommendations and taking steps to protect their skin during treatment.
A late effect of radiation tissue damage could occur from six months to over 30 years after an initial procedure. The side effects may vary with the location of the body that has been subjected to radiation. Since these signs take many years to manifest, it’s challenging to establish the link.
The cancer being treated usually affects the area where radiation signs of damage appear. However, they aren’t limited to the initial treatment site.
People who are diagnosed with prostate cancer, which targets the pelvis using radiation, could experience symptoms that are not present in other areas, including:
Hematuria (blood found in urine)
Incontinence in the urinary tract
Patients who are treated for breast cancer could experience adverse side effects, for example:
A chest wound that is not healing
Changes to your skin
Patients being treated for neck and head cancer might also experience other signs, like:
Dry mouth, dry lips, and excessive dryness
Dental problems (i.e., cavities)
People who received treatment with radiation to treat brain cancer can experience symptoms like:
Tingling or feeling of numbness
Insufficiency of bladder or bowel function
The legs or arms
Other indicators of late effect radiation tissue damage to tissues could be:
On your stool, there is blood
Painful bowel movements
Urinary urge that is constant
Radiation therapy with high doses is used to eliminate cancerous cells. These side effects result from destroying healthy cells and tissues surrounding the treatment site.
Recent advancements in research and technology for radiation therapy have improved the precision of this treatment. This has decreased the risk of adverse side effects compared to the previous radiation therapy methods.
Some people experience no adverse effects from radiation therapy. Or even none. Others experience more adverse severe negative effects.
The reactions to radiation therapy typically begin in the third or second week following treatment. They may also be present for several weeks following the treatment. Specific side effects could be permanent. Talk to your medical team regarding what to expect.