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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.

Skin Cancer Side Effects

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

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

  • Tiredness (temporary fatigue common)
  • Itching (pruritis)
  • Darkening of skin
  • Redness

Less Likely

  • Dryness
  • Hair loss (inside radiation therapy treatment area only)
  • Pain
  • Dry peeling (dry desquamation)
  • Wet peeling (moist desquamation)
  • Mucosal irritation

Long term side effects

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

More Likely

  • Firmness
  • Small blood vessel formation at surface of the skin (telangiectasia)
  • Darkening or lightening of the skin

Less Likely

  • Fibrosis
  • Swelling of nearby body parts (leg or arm edema if lymph nodes were treated)
  • Soft tissue necrosis
  • New (radiation-induced) skin cancers inside or near the treatment field or new cancers of the underlying muscle/bone (rare)
  • Cartilage damage