There is usually no pain associated with radiation therapy. However, depending on the area of your body being treated, you may experience side effects including fatigue, nausea, diarrhea, or skin that looks and feels sunburned. Your radiation oncologist can prescribe medications to help alleviate some of these symptoms. In general, most patients feel well enough during the course of treatment to continue with the majority of their normal activities, including work. To help ensure you feel your best while undergoing treatment, be sure to get adequate rest, drink lots of fluids, and eat a healthy diet to maintain your weight.
Radiation therapy is delivered to a localized area. If the radiation field(s) pass through skin containing hair, then hair loss—usually occurring two to three weeks after starting treatment—may occur. However, hair loss from radiation therapy does not occur in most situations for example, during or after treatment of the lung or prostate). Your radiation oncologist will discuss any questions you may have at the time of your consultation or simulation.
For several weeks following radiation therapy, you should not expose the area being treated to direct sunlight. This is especially important because sunscreen cannot be applied to the treated area while you're undergoing radiation therapy. Following treatment, it is essential that you apply sunscreen to the treated area to best protect sensitive areas from the sun.