Radiation therapy can cause anemia, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, hair loss, skin burn, sterility, and rarely death. However, the benefits of radiation therapy almost always exceed the risks. Patients should discuss the risks with their doctor and get a second opinion about their treatment plan.
The outcome of radiation treatment varies depending on the type, location, and stage of the cancer. For some cancers such as Hodgkin's disease, about 75% of the patients are cured. Prostate cancer also responds well to radiation therapy. Radiation to painful bony metastases is usually a dramatically effective form of pain control. Other cancers may be less sensitive to the benefits of radiation.
Cukier, Daniel, and Virginia McCullough. Coping with Radiation Therapy: A Ray of Hope. Chicago: Contemporary Books, 1996.
McCay, Judith, and Nancee Hirano. The Chemotherapy & Radiation Therapy Survival Guide. 2nd ed. Oakland: New Harbinger Publications, 1998.
American Cancer Society. 1599 Clifton Rd. NE, Atlanta GA 30329-4251. (800) ACS-2345. <http://www.cancer.org>.