Have you been diagnosed with a brain tumour? Order your free information pack.

What are the side-effects of radiotherapy when used to treat children with a brain tumour?

Although radiotherapy is rarely used to treat young children, it can be a very effective treatment. It uses controlled and targeted doses of high energy beams of charged particles to destroy the tumour cells, whilst causing as little damage as possible to surrounding healthy cells.

What happens when my child is given radiotherapy?

Before your child is given radiotherapy treatment, a lot of planning and preparation is needed. This is to make sure the treatment is as effective as possible whilst minimising the side-effects.

What are the side-effects of radiotherapy?

These will partly depend on the area of the brain where the radiotherapy is directed, and what that area controls. Also radiotherapy works best on rapidly dividing cells, such as tumour cells, but some normal cells in the treatment area also divide rapidly, so these areas tend to have the most common side-effects. These include hair and skin cells.

Although it is likely your child will experience some side-effects after having radiotherapy, most will be temporary and gradually fade – usually within 6-12 weeks after treatment has finished.

  • tiredness
  • hair loss
  • skin sensitivity, particularly on the scalp
  • feeling nauseous
  • reduced appetite
  • increased risk of infection, anaemia, bruising and nosebleeds.

Unfortunately, because a child’s central nervous system (CNS) is still developing, radiotherapy can cause some long-term or delayed side-effects. These will depend on which areas of the brain have been included in the treatment area, but can include affect:

  • brain development and cognitive skills
  • emotional difficulties
  • growth and development
  • puberty.

Other possible long-term side-effects include cataracts, heart conditions and increased risk of developing a second tumour.

Get your free brain tumour information pack

Our FREE Brain Tumour Information Pack has been designed to help you through this difficult time, to guide you through the healthcare system, answer your questions, and reassure you that you’re not alone so that you feel confident when discussing treatment and care options with your medical team.

Unfortunately, we’re currently unable to send Information Packs by post. All the information contained in the pack can be found in the email you’ll receive after completing this form.

Privacy notice

We will use the details you provided to send your information pack and any other resources you request and any relevant information in the future. Your details are held on our secure database and we promise never to share them with any other organisation for their marketing purposes. You can find out more in our privacy policy.