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Emotional effects of radiotherapy

Nurse and patients talking about cancer

This page tells you about the feelings and emotions you may have during or after radiotherapy treatment. There is information about

 

Feelings and emotions you may have

It is common to feel very tired and upset during radiotherapy. Or you may 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 be at their highest level and it is common to feel extremely tired. You may also feel that you have lost your support network at the hospital if your next follow up appointment is a few weeks away. This may make you feel very lonely.

You may 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.

 

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 may 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. 

Our information about counselling may be helpful.

There are books about the emotional effects of living with cancer, some of which are free. Look at our general cancer reading list.

The coping with cancer section may give you ideas about coming to terms with your cancer, the treatments, and possible side effects. Also, you can find out about the cancer organisations that can help you. 

You can join Cancer Chat. It is a discussion forum run by Cancer Research UK and you can talk on-line to other people affected by cancer, share your experiences, and find information and support.

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Updated: 2 May 2014