What to expect after radiation treatment for prostate cancer?

Radiation therapy, also known as X-ray therapy, uses high doses of radiation to destroy or stop prostate cancer cells from developing and dividing while causing minimal harm to healthy cells.

Radiation may be administered to the prostate directly from a machine outside the body (external radiation) or by injecting materials that contain radiation (radioisotopes) into the prostate via thin plastic tubes. Internal radiation treatment includes injecting radioactive implants into the tumor. These radioactive sources may be either temporary (removed until the appropriate dose has been achieved) or permanent.

Why would I choose radiation therapy?

Prostate cancer can be treated with radiation therapy, which involves external beam radiation therapy (EBRT) and brachytherapy. After other therapies, such as surgery, EBRT may be used to treat cancer that has recurred or is at high risk of recurrence. Radiation therapy has a proven track record of long-term disease prevention and survival rates that are comparable to other treatments.

On Recovery Days, What Happens?

External radiation therapy includes daily sessions (usually five days a week) over a five to eight-week span. The radiation therapist will assist you in getting onto the treatment table and into the best position for each treatment. When the therapist is satisfied that you are properly placed, they will exit the room and begin the radiation therapy.

What do I expect to feel like during radiation treatment?

External beam radiation therapy (EBRT) is somewhat close to getting an X-ray. Radiation is invisible, odorless, and tasteless. Side effects usually don’t show up until the second or third week of treatment. Since radiation therapy is a local procedure, side effects will only occur in the areas of the body where it is aimed. The majority of patients will experience one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Urination is becoming more common.
  • Urinary urgency is a term used to describe the urgency with which
  • Urinary Stream Is Weak
  • Urination is difficult to begin.
  • Urination causes a burning or tingling sensation.
  • Diarrhea on occasion
  • Bowel movements that are softer and lower in volume
  • Increased bowel movement frequency
  • Hemorrhoids or rectal irritation worsening with occasional scant blood and fatigue

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What to expect after radiation treatment for prostate cancer?

External Beam Radiation Therapy (EBRT) is a form of radiation therapy that uses (EBRT)

Urinary and bowel side effects may last for two to six weeks after completing external beam radiation therapy (EBRT), but they will improve over time. Some prescriptions may need to be continued.

For several weeks after treatment, several patients report continued, though lessening, fatigue. Other minor issues include itchy, dry skin, heaviness in the perineum, anal and rectal pain, and hemorrhoids flare-ups. Patients, on the other hand, are normally well enough to resume their everyday activities.


Brachytherapy is a form of radiotherapy that involves placing a radioactive source inside or near the area that needs to be treated. Small radioactive pellets, generally referred to as “seeds,” about the size of a grain of rice, are injected into the prostate in some cases. Another form of brachytherapy involves injecting radioactive material, such as iridium, through needles for a brief period of time.

Patients may experience the following symptoms after brachytherapy:

  • Urination creates a burning feeling.
  • Urination is happening more often.
  • Urinary stream that is sluggish or weak
  • Bladder emptying that isn’t complete
  • Blood in the urine for a short time, usually right after the operation
  • Soreness or pain in the perineum
  • Bruising or swelling in the scrotum
  • Spotting of blood from the perineum
  • Anesthesia causes nausea.
  • Tiredness

Radiation Side Effects

Complications in the Short-Term

Urinary symptoms may include waking up in the middle of the night having to urinate, needing to urinate more often during the day, or urgency – the need to urinate right now and not being able to keep it in for a long time. Inform your doctor; there are drugs available that can help with acute symptoms. You may also have some rectal issues, such as the need to urinate more often than normal or loose stools. Diarrhea is uncommon, but there are drugs that can aid if it occurs. Your doctor can also recommend that you follow a low-fiber diet for a period of time.

Complications in the Long-term

Radiation treatment has a very low risk of long-term complications (less than 5%). Proctitis (rectal inflammation), cystitis (bladder inflammation), urinary or rectal leakage, narrowing of the rectum or urethra, frequent diarrhea, urinary frequency or urgency, or the formation of an ulcer in the rectum are some of the conditions that may occur. Both of these items are treatable.

Erectile Dysfunction (ED)

Damage to blood vessels and nerves caused by radiation therapy may result in reduced erectile function over time, similar to surgery. In contrast to surgery, radiation therapy has a lesser effect on erectile function in the first 5 to 10 years after treatment, and about 70% of men who had baseline erectile function before treatment would retain it. Radiation therapy, on the other hand, has a longer delay in erectile function loss than surgery; 15 years later, the results are equivalent to those who had surgery.

Short-term (4 to 6 months) hormone therapy does not tend to affect these rates in the long run, but long-term (18 to 36 months) hormone therapy does. Newer radiation therapy methods, known as “vessel sparing” radiation therapy, have shown positive results in terms of retaining erectile function, with about 80% of men maintaining baseline function. Inquire about vessel sparing radiation therapy with your radiation oncologist.

Other Complications

Radiation therapy may also have an effect on fertility.

Cleveland Clinic

What to expect after radiation treatment for prostate cancer?