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Common Side Effects after Radiation Therapy for Oral Cancer

Radiation affects normal cells as well as cancer cells. You may have side effects, depending on how much radiation you get and where you get it. Here are side effects that people with oral cancer may have after radiation:

  • Dry mouth

  • Red and sore mouth

  • Trouble swallowing

  • Damaged taste buds

  • Tiredness

  • Skin irritation in the area that was treated

  • Teeth erosion or cavities, which can occur from having a dry mouth. Fluoride treatments may be prescribed by your doctor or dentist.

  • Damage to the jaw bone called osteoradionecrosis. This is a rare, but serious complication of radiation. Your risk for this damage is higher if you have bad teeth left in place when getting radiation. That’s why it’s very important to see a dentist before starting radiation.

Many of these side effects will go away a few weeks after treatments end.

Online Medical Reviewer: Dozier, Tennille, RN, BSN, RDMS
Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Last Review Date: 11/29/2013
© 2013 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare provider's instructions.