Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy (SBRT) Side Effects (Lung, Liver, Prostate, and Pancreas)

Author: Courtney Misher, MPH, BS R.T.(T)
Last Reviewed: June 29, 2023

SBRT is a type of external beam radiation that is used to kill cancer cells. The treatment course is given in less treatment days and fractions compared to standard radiation.

What are the side effects of SBRT?

The type and severity of side effects you have depends on many things, like:

  • Where your tumor is.
  • Which organs are near the treatment area.
  • The amount (dose) of radiation given.
  • How many treatments (fractions) you have.

Since a smaller area of your body is exposed to radiation during SBRT, there tend to be less side effects compared to standard radiation therapy. You may have side effects during or after SBRT. These side effects often go away.

After you are done with radiation, you may feel more tired, which is called fatigue. This is normal and should improve about 3-4 weeks after treatment is done. You may also have skin issues such as redness, itching, or swelling in the treatment area. Your care team can help you manage these side effects.

There are some side effects that are specific to your cancer type.


  • Shortness of Breath: You may have shortness of breath after treatment due to swelling of the lung from radiation.
  • Cough: You may develop a dry cough after treatment due to swelling of the lung from radiation. Ask your care team which over-the-counter cough syrup or cough drops to use.
  • Chest Wall Pain: You may have pain in the chest wall or ribs after treatment. This is caused by swelling of the nerve endings in the chest wall. This depends on the location of your treatment.


  • Urinary Irritation: You may have urinary frequency (having to go often) and urgency (having to go quickly) after treatment.

Liver and Pancreas:

  • Nausea or Diarrhea: You may have nausea or diarrhea after treatment. These can often be managed with changes in your diet and medications.

Depending on where your cancer is you may have other side effects. Your care team will talk to you about other possible side effects of your treatment.

When should I contact my provider?

Call your provider right away with any new or worsening symptoms, even if it has been weeks or months since your treatment has ended.


Burkoň, P., Trna, J., Slávik, M., Němeček, R., Kazda, T., Pospíšil, P., ... & Vrzal, M. (2022). Stereotactic Body Radiotherapy (SBRT) of Pancreatic Cancer—A Critical Review and Practical Consideration. Biomedicines, 10(10), 2480.

De La Pinta Alonso, C. (2020). Radiation-induced liver disease in the era of SBRT: a review. Expert Review of Gastroenterology & Hepatology, 14(12), 1195-1201.

Feng, L. R., Suy, S., Collins, S. P., Lischalk, J. W., Yuan, B., & Saligan, L. N. (2018). Comparison of Late Urinary Symptoms Following SBRT and SBRT with IMRT Supplementation for Prostate Cancer. Current urology, 11(4), 218–224.

Huang, K., Palma, D. A., & IASLC Advanced Radiation Technology Committee (2015). Follow-up of patients after stereotactic radiation for lung cancer: a primer for the nonradiation oncologist. Journal of thoracic oncology: official publication of the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer, 10(3), 412–419.


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