When you have radiation treatment for cancer, your body goes through some changes.
About 2 - 3 weeks after your first radiation treatment, you may have these side effects:
Skin problems during or after prostate radiation treatment is rare. Your skin over the treated area may turn red, start to peel, or itch.
You may have bladder discomfort. You may have to urinate often. It may burn when you urinate.
You may have diarrhea and cramping in your belly, or a sudden need to empty your bowels. These symptoms can last for the duration of therapy. They usually go away over time, but some patients may have diarrhea flare-ups for years afterwards.
Problems keeping or getting an erection may occur after prostate radiation therapy but may not be noticed for months or even a year or more after therapy is finished.
When you have radiation treatment, a health care provider draws colored markings on your skin. Do not remove them. These show where to aim the radiation. If they come off, do not redraw them. Tell your doctor if they come off. These must stay there until your treatments are done.
Skin problems during or after prostate radiation treatment is rare. Take care of the treatment area:
Wash gently with lukewarm water only. Do not scrub. Pat your skin dry.
Ask your doctor what soaps, lotions, or ointments that are okay to use.
Do not scratch or rub your skin.
Drink plenty of liquids: 8 - 10 glasses of fluids a day. Avoid orange juice, grapefruit juice, and other citrus juices if they make the bowel symptoms worse.
It is often treated with Lomotil.
Your doctor may place you on a low-residue diet that limits the amount of roughage you eat. You need to eat enough protein and calories to keep your weight up.
Some people who get prostate radiation treatment may begin to feel tired during the time you are having treatments. If you feel tired:
Do not try to do too much in a day. You probably will not be able to do everything you are used to doing.
Try to get more sleep at night. Rest during the day when you can.
Take a few weeks off work, or work less.
It is normal to have less interest in sex during and right after radiation treatments end. If this is true for you, your interest in sex will probably come back after your treatment is over and your life starts to get back to normal.
You should be able to enjoy sex safely after radiation treatment is over.
Your doctor may check your blood counts regularly, especially if the radiation treatment area on your body is large.
Sharma RA, Vallis KA, McKenna WG. Basics of radiation therapy. In: Abeloff MD, Armitage JO, Niederhuber JE, Kastan MB, McKenna WG, eds. Abeloff’s Clinical Oncology. 4th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2008:chap 29.
D'Amico AV, Crook J, Beard CJ, et al. Radiation therapy for prostate cancer. In: Wein AJ, ed. Campbell-Walsh Urology. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap XX.
Wilt TJ, MacDonald R, et al. Systematic review: comparative effectiveness and harms of treatments for clinically localized prostate cancer. Ann Intern Med. 2008;148(6):435-448.
Louis S. Liou, MD, PhD, Chief of Urology, Cambridge Health Alliance, Visiting Assistant Professor of Surgery, Harvard Medical School. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.