Radiation therapy to the abdomen

Knowing what to expect during and after treatment can help you prepare and reduce any anxiety that you may be feeling. The following information has been put together to help you understand your radiation therapy treatment, and we hope to reduce any concerns you have. It does not replace discussion with your doctor, or the advice of your treatment team specific to your needs.

What are the possible short-term side effects?

Radiation therapy may cause side effects. Everyone is different and you’re unlikely to experience all of the side effects listed.

Skin reaction

With our current treatment techniques, it is rare for a skin reaction to occur when we are treating the abdomen. However, your skin may become red, itchy or irritated. Towards the end of treatment, the skin reaction can become more intense however usually returns to normal four to six weeks after treatment finishes. Your treatment team will show you how to care for your skin and provide support. Tell your treatment team if you are experiencing any skin changes.


You may feel tired or lack energy for daily activities during your treatment. You may become increasingly tired as you progress toward the end of your treatment. This is a normal reaction to the radiation therapy and each person can be affected differently. Fatigue usually eases a few weeks after treatment finishes. Finding a balance between rest and activity will help you manage daily life.

Nausea and vomiting

Nausea and vomiting can be common reactions from radiation therapy to the abdomen. If you feel sick or experience a decreased appetite please tell your nurse
as these side effects can be managed.


Dietary changes may be required. Your treatment team will discuss with you in detail any changes that are necessary. These may include avoiding rich/salty/spicy/acidic foods and alcohol consumption. Dietary supplements such as Ensure/Sustagen may be recommended. Referral to a dietitian will be organised
by your nurse if required.

Bowel irritation

There can be irritation within the treatment area, and you may develop loose bowel motions or diarrhoea two to three weeks into treatment. Report abnormal bowel motions or diarrhoea to your treatment team, as severity needs to be monitored and medication can be provided.

Your radiation oncologist will discuss any possible long-term side effects related specifically to your treatment.

Suggestions for managing nausea and vomiting during treatment

  • Increase fluid intake during the day to keep hydrated.
  • Have frequent small meals and snacks. Follow any dietary advice given. Some people find eating ginger helpful.
  • Take any prescribed anti-sickness medications regularly.


Prescriptions and vitamins

Continue to take any prescribed medications. Please inform your nurse if you are taking vitamins, antioxidants or herbal supplements or if you start
any new medications during your treatment.

If you have any questions regarding medications please discuss this with your radiation oncologist or nurse.

Common questions

How will radiation therapy affect my day to day life?

You may continue your usual work and activities but you may experience some tiredness near the end of your treatment and in the weeks following. Unless otherwise advised you may eat and drink normally. Alcohol consumption in moderation is permitted and you can continue to take any prescribed medications.

Can I wash the marks off my skin?

We ask that you don’t deliberately wash them off as this may further irritate your skin. The radiation therapists will reapply them each day as required.

What happens after my treatment is finished?

Your follow up arrangements will be discussed and organised by your treating team prior to completing treatment.

When do the side effects settle?

The treatment keeps on working after you have stopped coming in for treatment. Therefore the symptoms may get a little worse before they get better. Generally the side effects will have settled within four to six weeks of finishing your treatment.

Will radiation make me radioactive?

Radiation therapy does not make you radioactive and it is safe to be around others, including children and pregnant women during and after your treatment. There is no restriction on physical contact with others.

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  • 04 896 0200
  • Level B3, Bowen Specialist Medical Centre 98 Churchill Drive Crofton Downs Wellington 6035