Radiation therapy for bladder cancer
Radiation therapy, also known as radiotherapy, uses a controlled dose of radiation to kill or damage cancer cells. The radiation is usually in the form of x-ray beams.
On its own, radiation therapy can help to control bladder cancer. In this case, you may have a single session, or up to 20 sessions given Monday to Friday over four weeks. This approach may be recommended if you are too unwell for other treatments or if the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.
Radiation therapy can sometimes be combined with other treatments in trimodal therapy, with the aim of curing the cancer.
You will meet with the radiation oncology team to plan your treatment. During a radiation therapy session, you will lie on an examination table, and a machine will direct the radiation towards your bladder. The treatment is painless and can’t be seen or felt.
Radiation therapy for bladder cancer can cause temporary side effects, including needing to urinate more often and more urgently, burning when you pass urine, fatigue, loss of appetite, diarrhoea and soreness around the anus. Symptoms tend to build up during treatment and usually start improving over a few weeks after treatment ends.
Less commonly, radiation therapy may permanently affect the bowel or bladder. Bowel motions may be more frequent and looser, and damage to the lining of the bladder (radiation cystitis) can cause blood in the urine. Radiation therapy may also cause poor erections and make ejaculation uncomfortable for some months after treatment.
For more on this see Radiation therapy.
Video: What is radiation therapy?
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Prof Dickon Hayne, UWA Medical School, The University of Western Australia, and Head, Urology, South Metropolitan Health Service, WA; BEAT Bladder Cancer Australia; Dr Anne Capp, Senior Staff Specialist, Radiation Oncology, Calvary Mater Newcastle, NSW; Marc Diocera, Genitourinary Nurse Consultant, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Dr Peter Heathcote, Senior Urologist, Princess Alexandra Hospital, and Adjunct Professor, Australian Prostate Cancer Research Centre, QLD; Melissa Le Mesurier, Consumer; Dr James Lynam, Medical Oncologist Staff Specialist, Calvary Mater Newcastle and The University of Newcastle, NSW; John McDonald, Consumer; Michael Twycross, Consumer; Rosemary Watson, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council Victoria.
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