Side Effects of Brain Cancer Radiation Therapy

Brain cancer radiation therapy side effects blog post by CenterPoint Radiation Oncology

Side Effects of Brain Cancer Radiation Therapy

Brain cancer radiation therapy side effects concern every patient who will or has just started radiation therapy. As part of the preparation for the treatment, physicians and oncologists provide information about these side effects. Compared to chemotherapy, which is another common cancer treatment, radiation therapy has fewer side effects because it targets only the body area that has cancer. Nonetheless, depending on the patient’s overall health condition, brain cancer radiation therapy side effects can leave a great and lasting impact on them. It is important to be well-informed of not only the side effects but also the ways to manage and treat them.

Here is a list of known brain cancer radiation therapy side effects and the approximate time of occurrence and duration.

We have also included medical treatments available and suggestions to help alleviate some of these side effects at home.

Fatigue

  • Fatigue may appear within a few weeks of treatment.
  • It may last up to a year post-treatment.
  • Experts recommend naps and light exercises throughout the day, as well as keeping hydrated.

Hair Loss

  • Hair loss can start 2 to 3 weeks after the start of the radiation therapy.
  • Experts do not advise any treatment. Usually, hair grows back within 3 to 6 months after completing the therapy.

Nausea and Vomiting

  • Nausea and vomiting may occur during and after radiation therapy.
  • Doctors can prescribe medication. Patients should avoid using over-the-counter medicine for nausea and vomiting. They should consult their physicians to make sure they get the drug that is right for them.
  • Other ways to treat this brain cancer radiation therapy side effect include eating smaller meal portions and avoiding foods that have strong smells and flavors.

Skin Reactions

  • Skin reactions may start to occur during the first 2 weeks of the radiation treatment. It is one of the brain cancer radiation therapy side effects that can be in severe forms.
  • Some of the skin reactions: peeling, blistering, swelling, skin loss, and ulcers.
  • Adjusting the dosage of radiation can stop this side effect.

Headaches

  • Headaches can occur shortly after starting radiation.
  • Doctors may prescribe a steroid medication that patients should take throughout the course of the treatment and for a specific number of days after every treatment.

Radiation Necrosis

  • Radiation necrosis refers to the lump of dead tissue at the site of the tumor. It is a rare side effect and may appear months or years after treatment.
  • Treatment options include a medication called corticosteroids or surgery.

Mood Swings

  • Mood Swings can occur within weeks of the radiation therapy.
  • Radiation therapy can trigger hormonal imbalances that can influence mood changes, such as depression and anxiety, confusion, forgetfulness, and irritability.
  • Patient’s psychological health is another factor affecting mood changes.
  • Depression and anxiety can worsen fatigue, which is, as mentioned, another common side effect of brain cancer radiation therapy.
  • Light exercises and relaxation may help relieve these signs of mood changes. Doctors may also prescribe some medications for depression.

Brain Cancer Radiation Therapy Side Effects that Need Immediate Medical Attention

  • Vision Changes
    Damage to the optic nerve can happen after radiation therapy, although very rarely. This can seriously affect vision. Blurry vision is one of the signs of optic nerve damage. It is best for the patient to immediately inform the doctor about it or any other changes in their vision, such as flashing lights, color vision loss, and eye pain.
  • Cognitive Changes
    Signs of cognitive problems in patients after undergoing radiation therapy are memory loss, poor concentration, and speech difficulty, These issues can greatly impact patients’ daily lives, so it is imperative to consult their doctors immediately after noticing these problems.

Brain cancer radiation therapy side effects vary between individual patients.

Some side effects may present themselves quite stronger in some patients but less in others. It is possible that all of the side effects mentioned here can be experienced by a patient. Again, the doctor will provide a more detailed explanation of these side effects. They will also answer questions the patient may have before starting the treatment.

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