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) or proton beam, deliver the highest dose of radiation to the target while sparing surrounding healthy tissue. This helps 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
  • Diarrhea
  • Painful bowel movements
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Rectal leaking
  • Fatigue
  • 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, 2016
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