Breast cancer radiation therapy, also known as radiotherapy, is the use of high-energy light to destroy or damage cancer cells in the body, such as the tumor, sites or lymph nodes. Radiotherapy stops the spread of cancer and reduces the risk of relapse. While most people can endure radiation therapy, there are potential short- and long-term side effects risks that cause concern to patients. Therefore, before receiving radiotherapy, patients should be aware of the possible symptoms during and after treatment.

Current article: Breast Cancer Radiotherapy – Short and Long Term Side Effects

Short-term side effects of Radiotherapy

Short-term side effects mean that a few weeks after the radiotherapy procedure begins, and disappear several weeks after the course ends. The following are four common short-term side effects.

Skin irritation

The most common side effect of radiation therapy is skin irritation in the treatment area. At the beginning of the treatment, the skin may have some redness, pain, like a feeling of sunburn. Each patient has a different skin condition and treatment area, so the level of irritation varies. However, during the last few weeks of treatment, the irritated area heals quickly. In some cases, redness and pain may occur on the part of the body exposed to radiation therapy, such as the back or chest.


This is a common side effect, but almost always disappears in the last weeks of treatment.


devotion to radiation therapy can affect the patient’s work and family, especially in cases where the patient is inaccessible and the home is far away from the treatment site, may cause depression, stress, anxiety, etc.

Hair loss

Although radiation treatment does not cause hair loss, the area under the arm and chest of the patient is treated may still lose hair.

Long-term side effects

Long-term side effects mean that after treatment, X-rays affect the wrong area, causing changes in the patient’s appearance and internal organ function. The following are four common side effects.


Some women with underarm surgery may have swelling of their arms after receiving radiation therapy in this area. Therefore, doctors do not recommend both surgery and surgery under their armpits. Also, if lymphatic nodes have cancer cells, the risk of lymphatic edema may increase.

Difficult breathing

In rare cases, patients will continue to cough and have dyspnea after several years of radiotherapy. This is due to unforeseen changes in the lung tissue caused by radiation therapy called Radiation fibrosis.

Heart problems

In very few cases, the heart may change in years in patients with radiation treatment on the left thoracic cavity.
Risk of other cancers: Due to radiation damage to the body’s healthy tissues and immune system, long-term radiotherapy may affect the risk of developing other cancers several years later.

Read: Accompanying Breast Cancer Patients – Communication is Key