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What to Expect After Radiation Treatment for Breast Cancer

If you get external beam radiation therapy (EBRT), you don't need to worry about being radioactive after your treatments. It's perfectly safe to be around other people. However, if you have internal radiation or brachytherapy, you may be told to avoid certain people who could be sensitive to radiation, such as small children and pregnant women. Be sure you understand what type of radiation you're getting and any precautions you should take to protect those around you. Also be sure you understand possible side effects, things you can do to try to prevent them, and what you should do if you have them. 

EBRT and brachytherapy usually don't cause serious side effects. Possible side effects include:

  • Skin irritation

  • Redness

  • Itching

  • Heaviness and tightness in the treated area 

  • Loss of appetite

  • Fatigue (extreme tiredness)

Here's a list of longer-term, but minor, side effects:

  • Darkening of your skin in the area treated

  • Increased pore size in the area treated

  • Red areas, called telangiectasias, which are dilated blood vessels

  • Damage to your heart and lungs that may not show up for many years 

Ask your doctor, nurse, or radiologist about expected side effects. Let them know if you have any problems. They may be able to give you some tips on how to ease these side effects.



Online Medical Reviewer: Grantham, Paula, RN, BSN
Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Last Review Date: 9/18/2013
© 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.