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Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Cancer Services

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Side effects

The side effects of radiotherapy usually peak up to two weeks after treatment has finished.

The effects of radiotherapy continue developing, and it may take a further couple of weeks to several months for you to feel normal, depending on the area of the body that has been treated.

The timing of the follow-up appointment is important, to allow the doctor to assess the effectiveness of the radiotherapy, and to guide you with regards to the ongoing side effects.

Skin care

Continue with your skin care for two to three weeks or until your skin has healed. When your skin is no longer red, inflamed or sore you may return to using your usual products.

However, the skin in the area you had treated will remain dry and sensitive to UV rays, and therefore exposure to the sun should be avoided by covering the treated area or using a high factor sun cream or sun block once your skin has completely healed. You may need to moisturise your skin more often.

Tiredness and emotion

Tiredness might continue after your treatment has finished. Continue to allow yourself extra time to rest, perhaps by taking a nap or going to bed earlier than normal.

Many people are relieved that their treatment is over, but it can be an emotional time. You may feel anxious and uncertain before your appointment with the oncologist, or you may be keen to return to your normal routines and find that the ongoing tiredness and feelings are holding you back. This is natural and it is important to give yourself time to adjust - recovery time is individual.

Support may be available from family and friends. It might help you to resume some hobbies and social activities you enjoy - gentle exercise can boost your mood.

Both you and those around you can find advice and support from the local Maggie's Centre and the organisations listed on our Further support page.

They will have information on local support groups, counselling services and complimentary therapies. Your family doctor may also be a source of support and advice regarding the impact of your experience on your emotions and relationships (including sexual relationships) and may refer you to local counselling services.

Nutrition

It is important to continue to maintain a healthy diet and drink plenty of fluids. You may have found that your eating habits have changed, so continue to have small snacks throughout the day rather than big meals if you need to. If you continue having problems with eating, discuss these with your GP or nurse practitioner, who can arrange for you to see a dietitian if necessary.