Our 24/7 cancer helpline provides information and answers for people dealing with cancer. We can connect you with trained cancer information specialists who will answer questions about a cancer diagnosis and provide guidance and a compassionate ear.
Our highly trained specialists are available 24/7 via phone and on weekdays can assist through video calls and online chat. We connect patients, caregivers, and family members with essential services and resources at every step of their cancer journey. Ask us how you can get involved and support the fight against cancer. Some of the topics we can assist with include:
For medical questions, we encourage you to review our information with your doctor.
X-rays and gamma rays can cause a number of other problems besides cancer. What problems occur depends on factors such as the radiation dose, the timing of the exposure, and what areas of the body are exposed.
Exposure to high doses of radiation over a short period of time can cause radiation sickness (sometimes called radiation poisoning or acute radiation syndrome) and even death. Some of the symptoms of radiation sickness include fainting, confusion, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, hair loss, skin and mouth sores, and bleeding. The atomic bomb blasts in Hiroshima and Nagasaki led to many cases of radiation sickness. Some cases have also resulted from nuclear power plant accidents, such as the one in Chernobyl.
Doses of radiation such as those given in radiation therapy also cause side effects.
Short-term side effects depend on the area being treated but might include skin changes (ranging from mild reddening to something like a severe burn), nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and low blood cell counts.
There is also a risk of long-term side effects, which again vary depending on the area being treated. For example:
Lower doses of radiation, such as from imaging tests, are not known to cause short-term health problems.
Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.
Environmental Protection Agency. Radiation Health Effects. 2022. Accessed at https://www.epa.gov/radiation/radiation-health-effects on November 4, 2022.
National Research Council of the National Academies. Health Risks from Exposure to Low Levels of Ionizing Radiation: BEIR VII Phase 2. 2006. Accessed at https://nap.nationalacademies.org/read/11340/chapter/1 on November 4, 2022.
Last Revised: November 10, 2022