Radiation Therapy

Radiation Therapy: Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some frequently asked questions related to radiation therapy.

Q: Will I be radioactive?

A: External radiation therapy does not make you radioactive and you do not have to take any precautions. Patients who undergo internal radiation therapy stay in hospital a short time. Special precautions are taken while the implant is in place. When treatment is over, there is no danger to other people.

Q: I’ve heard that radiation therapy can cause cancer. Is that true?

A: Brief high doses of radiation that damage or destroy cancer cells can also injure or kill normal cells. Side effects of radiation treatment are well known and can be easily treated. Although there is a risk of cancer from radiation therapy, this risk is usually less than the benefit obtained from killing cancer cells. Your doctor will advise you to have any treatment only when the benefits – controlling the disease and getting relief from symptoms – are greater than the known risks.

Q: What happens after radiation therapy?

A: During your weeks of treatment, you will be monitored by the radiation oncologist at regularly scheduled visits. During these check-ups, your doctor will

  • Discuss and monitor any side effects you experience from radiation treatments


  • Check for any signs of recurrent disease


  • Perform a physical exam


  • Possibly send you for lab tests and/or x-rays


  • Answer any questions you have


Once all treatments are completed, the radiation oncologist will want to see you for follow-up and will coordinate additional visits with other doctors involved in your care. Follow-up care might include:

  • More cancer treatment


  • Routine blood tests, x-ray images and lab work


  • Rehabilitation


  • Counseling


Taking good care of yourself is an important part of following through after radiation treatments.


Q: Can I wash during treatment?

A: Ask the nurse or doctor if you can wash the area being treated. You can wash any other part of your body.

Q: Does radiation therapy cause infertility?

A: Radiation therapy only causes infertility if radiation beams pass through the testes in men or ovaries in women. Most radiation therapy does not affect these areas and does not result in infertility. Physicians may that recommend women of childbearing age avoid becoming pregnant for some period after treatment, so it is important to consider contraception during this time.

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