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The side effects of radiation therapy vary greatly from patient to patient. Generally, the side effects of the treatment are dependent on the dose of the treatment, the area (organ) of the treatment, and the patient's health performance status.  Some side effects, such as fatigue, skin reactions (include dryness, redness, pain, change of color, or ulceration), decrease blood counts, and loss of appetite, can occur when any area is treated. Hair loss may also occur but happens only in the area treated.  Radiation does not cause total body hair loss.   The patient who is having external radiation is not radioactive after the treatment and is not harmful to other people.

The side effects that may occur from radiation therapy to the ABDOMEN are listed below. These may occur during the third or fourth week of treatment and typically begin to resolve within two weeks after treatment is complete.

Helpful Hints on Managing Side Effects


Try to do your normal activities. Pace yourself so that you do not become tired. Limit activities if necessary. Try to get a good night's sleep. Rest during the day. Ask for help from family and friends with your daily chores.

Loss of appetite

  • Eat whenever you want to eat.
  • Let others cook for you
  • Eat small frequent meals instead of large meals.
  • Avoid dry foods-crackers, toast.
  • Carbohydrate kinds of food more easily tolerated - hard candy, crackers, toast and jelly.
  • Maintain adequate liquids intake to avoid dehydration. 
  • Try nutritional supplements, such as Ensure and Boost,  to increase intake.
  • Notify your Oncologist of any problems with eating.

Skin changes

  • Do not use any skin product before radiation therapy.
  • Use Aloe Gel (alcohol free) or fresh Aloe extract for soothing.
  • Wear loose fitting clothes.
  • When you wash the area, use mild soap (without deodorant or perfumes) and lukewarm water.
  • Do not scrub off the marks drawn on your skin by the therapist.
  • Avoid extreme temperature - hot or cold.
  • Protect area from sun exposure.
  • Do not use heat on area in any form (hot water bottles, heating pads, etc.).
  • Do not apply tape in treatment area.
  • Notify Radiation Oncologist of any skin changes - dryness, itching, or moist areas. Nausea, vomiting, and/or feeling of fullness.

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