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Side Effects

The side effects you might experience will depend on the part of the body being treated, the dose of radiation given and whether you also receive chemotherapy. Before treatment begins, ask your doctor about possible side effects and how best to manage them. This list doesn't represent all of the possible side side effects.

This is a visual side effects chart showing short and long term side effects. Larger bubbles show higher likelihood of occurrence. To see a larger version, click on the chart.

Brain Tumor Side Effects

For patients who prefer to look at the side effects in text instead of graphics, please see below.

Side effects are different for everyone. Some patients feel fine during treatment while others may feel uncomfortable. Before treatment, ask your doctor to describe what you can expect.

  • Fatigue, or mild tiredness, may develop starting in the middle of the treatment course. However, tiredness from radiation should improve within a few weeks after radiation treatment ends.
  • Hair loss, may occur but only in the area being treated.
  • Mild skin irritation, itchy or red scalp and/or dry peeling of the skin may occur with external beam radiation. Clean the area regularly with mild soap and warm water.
  • Headaches are a common side effect of any treatment for brain tumors.
  • Decreased or muffled hearing may occur. Additionally, you may experience inflammation of the ear canal with irritation, discharge, dizziness or sense of “fullness.”

Radiation may also cause short-term memory loss, difficulty thinking and slowness in completing tasks. Some patients benefit from medicine or a specialized radiation technique that can reduce short-term memory loss. Ask your doctor if these options are available for you.

Side effects are different for each patient. Medications may be prescribed to make you as comfortable as possible. If at any time during your treatment you feel discomfort, tell your doctor or nurse.