Side effects from radiation therapy to the brain
Stereotactic radiosurgery is often used when cancer is in only one or a few sites in the brain. (This radiation treatment gives a large dose of radiation to a small tumor area.) Side effects depend on where the radiation is aimed. Some side effects might show up quickly, but others might not show up until 1 to 2 years after treatment. Talk with your radiation oncologist about what to watch for and when to call for help.
Sometimes the whole brain is treated with radiation when cancer is in many areas. This may also be done to keep cancer from spreading to the brain.
Radiation to the brain can cause these side effects:
- Hair loss
- Extreme tiredness (fatigue)
- Hearing loss
- Skin and scalp changes
- Trouble with memory and speech
Some of these side effects can be caused by swelling of the brain from the radiation. Medicines are usually given to prevent brain swelling, but it’s important to let your cancer care team know about headaches or any other symptoms. Delayed effects (usually 1 or 2 years later) of brain radiation may be caused by death of brain tissue. These delayed effects can include serious problems such as memory loss, stroke-like symptoms, and poor brain function.
Last Medical Review: June 30, 2015 Last Revised: June 30, 2015
- What is radiation therapy? When is it used?
- How does radiation therapy work?
- Do the benefits of radiation therapy outweigh the risks and side effects?
- How much does radiation treatment cost?
- Who gives radiation treatments?
- Informed consent for radiation therapy
- How is radiation therapy given?
- External radiation therapy
- Internal radiation therapy (brachytherapy)
- Systemic radiation therapy
- Common side effects of radiation therapy
- Long-term side effects of radiation therapy
- Managing side effects of radiation treatment to certain parts of the body
- Side effects from radiation therapy to the head and neck
- Side effects from radiation therapy to the brain
- Side effects from radiation therapy to the breast
- Side effects from radiation therapy to the chest
- Side effects from radiation therapy to the stomach and abdomen
- Side effects from radiation therapy to the pelvis
- Taking care of yourself during radiation therapy
- Follow-up care after radiation therapy
- Radiation therapy glossary
- To learn more