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What to Expect From Radiation Therapy

What Are the Late Side Effects From Radiation Therapy?

Late side effects from radiation therapy take months and sometimes years to develop and are usually permanent. But keep in mind that the possibility of a late side effect does not mean you will have one.

Late side effects result from damage done to your body that can cause problems later. For example, scar tissue resulting from radiation can affect the way your lungs or your heart works. Bladder, bowel, and sexual problems can develop after radiation to the abdomen/pelvis area.

Another possible late side effect is the development of a second cancer. Radiation has long been recognized as a cancer-causing agent. And research has shown that, although rare, some people develop another cancer years after radiation therapy has cured the first cancer. It's important to talk with your doctor about the potential risk and to weigh it against the benefits to be derived from radiation therapy as a treatment option.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD on September 25, 2012
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