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How long does it take for radiotherapy to make you ill?
My Gran starts her radiotherapy today.
I had a look at some pictures of people recieving the therapy, it reminds me so much of one of those stupid films where the hero is tied down with a laser pointing at him, and an evil genius operating the machine.
But anyway......
Mum says not everyone gets ill, and that everyone is effected differently. But I wanna know, on average, how ill people usually get with it, and how long it takes to get like that.
Do you start feeling ill straight away? Is it more like a couple of hours after the treatment? Or does it take a couple of treatments to really start kicking in?
Additional Details
She had breast cancer, the tumour about half an inch in diameter. They removed the lump and some of her lymph nodes but decided further treatment was required.
She is getting sessions 5 days a week for a month.

It is certainly a case=by-case basis, and I'm not sure what type of cancer your gran is getting/where the radiationg is targeted. But I'll give you my experience:

My father had lung cancer and was having concentrated therapy on his left lung. near his heart and he didn't have side-effects (like nausea, etc. as is often present with Chemotherapy) but he did get a "sunburn" type rash around the area and his esophogus was affected (which is common in lung-radiation.) so he had trouble eating/swallowing and a tube was inserted into his stomach for nourishment. The esophogial damage didn't start until maybe 2 weeks after the radiotherapy began, and the tube didn't have to be inserted until maybe a month afterward. He had the radiotherapy for 2 mos. at 3 times per week, so it was very radical therapy, but this is what happened with him.

It took about 2 mos. after the radiotherapy ended for him to be able to eat on his own again at a rate that would sustain/put on weight.

I had 5 treatments a week for 3 weeks and didn't have any bad effects. It was on my ribs where my cancer was and I had had a surgery previously. The only thing that happened was my scars were a bit itchy and dry. I was a little tired, but not a dramatic amount.

jackie m
My friend had no side affects on the radiotherapy after breast cancer.

Macmillan are very good for information, you can email them and they will reply.


Hope your nan's treatment goes well.

You don't necessarily get ill and if you do it takes several treatments before you do. You are given medicine to counteract the treatment. I am speaking from experience, I am very grateful to say.

As your mom says, it depends on the person and the dosage. There is no real average, because every treatment is different. Some people get radiation to address pain only, and some get it to attack the cancer. My husband had radiation for pain and he did not get sick from it at all. I have seen people get sick within a few days if they were having a really high dosage. I hope your gran's treatments go well.

Like your Gran I had a lump removed from my breast and lymph nodes removed too.

As everyone has said everyone reacts differently but other than feeling sunburnt and tired it wasn't that bad. They gave me cream for the "sunburn" and it went away acouple of weeks after I'd finished treatment.

breastcancercare is a really good site for information.

Hope all goes well

I have recently had radiotherapy for BC and I found that I was tired just coming up to my final treatment ( i had 15) i was also very tearful. the 'sunburn' was not to bad, as I had had a mastectomy, some of the ladies who had rads but not mastectomy,seemed to have a bit more soreness than I did. usually the crease of the breast or nipple area. It was a breeze compared to chemo

It seems I am the same as your nan. I had the same treatment and I was against radiotheraphy at first. But it seemed the last option for me to remove some cancerous cells that were still there after my op. I also went every day for a month and had no side effects whatsoever and was not ill. I wondered why I made all the fuss. The only thing that happened was that my skin reddened, but had to put cream on all the time. But it all disappeared after a few weeks when the treatment ended. I don't think your gran has anything to fear. I say "good luck and all the very best" to her.

I had 25 radiotherapy sessions for breast cancer. I never felt ill, and of the many women I have met through breast cancer support networks, none have felt ill as a result of radiotherapy.

The most common side effect is fatigue; for me this used to overwhelm me from time to time, other people felt tired most of the time. She should rest as much as her body dictates, but try to get a little exercise regularly as well - walking is good.

Some people suffer from burning to a greater or lesser degree - I hardly burnt at all, just went a little pink towards the lend of my treatment. Several people I know have described it as being like sunburn. She will be given cream for the area.

So don't worry, she won't feel ill; I'm sure that radiotherapy to some other areas, such as the head, would cause people to feel ill, but not to the breast or underarm.

Don't worry about the machines, they're not as scary as they look and you're only under them for a very short while; they're big but they don't touch you.

Honestly, the worst thing about radiotherapy is the boredom; you have to get yourself there every day, probably then wait around for your appointment, then get yourself home.

Best wishes to your gran for her treatment

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