The type and severity of side effects you have with external beam radiation for prostate cancer may depend on the dose and on the amount of healthy tissue that's exposed to the radiation. Most side effects are temporary, can be controlled and generally improve over time once treatment has ended.
Newer technologies, such as intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), deliver the highest dose of radiation to the target while sparing surrounding healthy tissue. This helps to minimize side effects of external beam radiation treatment.
Potential side effects of external beam radiation therapy for prostate cancer may include:
- Frequent urination
- Difficult or painful urination
- Blood in the urine
- Urinary leakage
- Abdominal cramping
- Painful bowel movements
- Rectal bleeding
- Rectal leaking
- Sexual dysfunction, including diminished erectile function or decrease in the volume of semen
- Skin reactions (similar to a sunburn)
- Secondary cancers in the region of the radiation
Most of the side effects are mild and tolerable. Some side effects may develop months to years later. Serious late side effects are uncommon. Ask your doctor about potential side effects, both short and long term, that may occur during and after your treatment.
May 18, 2013
- External beam therapy (EBT). Radiological Society of North America. http://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?pg=ebt. Accessed March 4, 2013.
- DiBiase SJ, et al. External beam radiation therapy for localized prostate cancer. http://www.uptodate.com/home/. Accessed March 5, 2013.
- Cozzarini C. Low-dose-rate brachytherapy, radical prostatectomy, or external-beam radiation therapy for localised prostate carcinoma: The growing dilemma. European Urology. 2011;60:894.
- Prostate cancer. American Cancer Society. http://www.cancer.org/cancer/prostatecancer/detailedguide/index. Accessed March 4, 2013.
- Tanagho EA, et al. Smith's General Urology. 17th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2008. http://www.accessmedicine.com/resourceTOC.aspx?resourceID=21. Accessed March 5, 2013.
- Radiation therapy. Prostate Cancer Foundation. http://www.pcf.org/site/c.leJRIROrEpH/b.5813857/k.AACD/Radiation_Therapy. htm. Accessed Dec. 8, 2010.
- Wong WW (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. March 6, 2013.