Chest radiotherapy side effects

Chest radiotherapy includes radiotherapy to the breast, your chest wall (if you've had surgery to remove your breast) or to your chest itself. This can include radiotherapy to the lungs or to the oesophagus (your food pipe or gullet).

Side effects will depend on where you're having treatment to. 

Radiotherapy to the chest can also cause some general side effects, such as tiredness and reddening of the skin. 

Difficulty swallowing

You might have trouble swallowing (dysphagia) during and after radiotherapy treatment to the chest. There are a number of things that you can do to help. 


You might feel sick when having chest radiotherapy. Find out how to help with this. 


Shortness of breath can happen during and after chest radiotherapy and more rarely for radiotherapy to the breast. 

Lymphoedema after breast cancer treatment

About 1 in 5 women get lymphoedema after breast cancer treatment. Find out how you can lower your risk of getting it and things you can to to help manage it.

Breast changes and problems moving your arm and shoulder

Radiotherapy to the breast can cause side effects, such as breast changes and problems moving your shoulder.  

Heart problems

Radiotherapy to the left side of your chest might mean your heart receives a small amount of radiation. This can cause some side effects. 

Last reviewed: 
10 Nov 2020
Next review due: 
10 Nov 2023