Decorative image

Emotional effects of radiotherapy

Find out about the feelings and emotions you might have during or after radiotherapy treatment.

Feelings and emotions you may have

It is common to feel very tired and upset during radiotherapy. Or you might feel anxious and depressed during the treatment. Many people having radiotherapy share these feelings.

One woman told us: "During my radiotherapy I became very emotional. I'd start crying for no reason."

Many people say that they feel very low or depressed a couple of weeks after their treatment has finished. The side effects may then be at their highest level and it is common to feel extremely tired.

You might also feel that you have lost your support network at the hospital if your next follow up appointment is a few weeks away. This can make you feel very lonely.

You might have a whole range of feelings, from anxiety, fear, hopelessness, and anger to depression. These feelings are all common during and after treatment for cancer.

The tiredness that radiotherapy causes can make it feel even harder to cope with strong emotions.

Where to get help

Having treatment for cancer can be very upsetting. We all have our own ways of managing difficulties.

Some people have a close network of family and friends to support them. Others would rather get help from people who aren't involved in their illness. 

There is a lot of help available if you need it. You can ask at your treatment hospital about the help in your area.

There might be local support groups for people having treatment for the same type of cancer. The hospital may provide counselling or your GP can refer you to a local counsellor.

Find local cancer information and support

NHS Choices helps you to find local cancer information and support.

Last reviewed: 
14 Mar 2016
  • Emotional support for cancer patients: what do patients really want?
    ML Slevin and others
    British Journal of Cancer, 1996, 74, pages 1275-1279

  • Improving supportive and palliative care for adults with cancer
    National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), March 2004

  • Prevalence of depression in patients with cancer
    M Massie 
    Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 2004, Monographs, pages 32, 57-71

  • Coping with cancer
    National Cancer Institute (NCI), November 2012

  • Patient and caregivers resources
    National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN), November 2012

Information and help

Dangoor sponsorship

About Cancer generously supported by Dangoor Education since 2010.