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Side Effects

This list doesn't represent all of the possible side side effects. Please talk to your radiation oncologist about your specific diagnosis to learn more about how likely these side effects may be for you.

View the visual side effects chart.

Short term side effects

Side effects are usually temporary and usually go away shortly after treatment ends. Below is a list of possible side effects you might notice during your treatment.

More likely
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Decreased appetite
  • Skin irritation
  • Dry mouth
  • Hair loss on face or back of head
  • Loss or altered taste
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Pain with swallowing
  • Thick mucous/secretions
  • Swelling of neck
Less likely
  • Temporary feeding tube
  • Difficulty swallowing 
  • Voice changes
  • Cough
  • Severe skin reaction
  • Shortness of breath
  • Difficulty opening mouth
  • Lung inflammation
  • Ear fullness

Long term side effects

After the short-term side effects of radiation therapy resolve, others may become noticeable months or years later.

More likely
  • Weight loss
  • Dry mouth
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of hair on face/back of head
  • Neck swelling
  • Discoloration of skin
  • Thickening/tightness of neck
  • Difficulty swallowing 
  • Chronic taste changes
Less likely
  • Decreased thyroid function
  • Permanent feeding tube
  • Voice changes 
  • Tooth decay
  • Difficulty opening mouth
  • Hearing loss
  • Spinal cord damage
  • Jaw damage
  • Brain tissue damage
  • Arm nerve damage
  • Second cancers