How Soon After Radiation Treatment Will Side Effects Subside?

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Radiation therapy is a technique that uses controlled doses of ionizing radiation to shrink or destroy cancer cells. The duration of the side effects of treatment varies according to a number of factors.

The Facts

According to the National Cancer Institute, radiation therapy comes in different forms that are used in different circumstances. For example, some types of treatment can be very closely targeted to the site of the cancer, while others penetrate deeply into the body.

Duration of Side Effects

According to the American Cancer Society, some of the side effects of radiation therapy will typically subside within weeks after treatment ends. However, the side effects of certain treatments may be permanent, or may not become apparent for months or years.

Short-Term Examples

If radiation therapy is administered to the head or neck, inflammation of the mouth may continue for several weeks after treatment.

Long-Term Examples

Pelvic radiation in women may cause vaginal ulcers that last for a number of months. Radiation therapy administered to the brain may trigger large-scale cell death (radiation necrosis) months or years after treatment ends.

Permanent Examples

If radiation therapy is administered to the testicles, permanent loss of sperm output may result.

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