- Cancer Information
- Cancer treatment
- Radiation therapy
- Managing radiation therapy side effects
- Bladder changes
Radiation therapy to the abdomen or pelvic area can irritate the bladder or, more often, the urethra (the tube that carries urine from the bladder to the outside of the body).
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You may feel you want to pass urine more often or you might have some stinging when you pass urine. This is called cystitis. The symptoms usually ease within 3 months of finishing radiation therapy.
Incontinence is when urine leaks from your bladder without your control. After radiation therapy, you may need to pass urine more often, particularly at night, or feel as if you need to go in a hurry. You may leak a few drops of urine when you cough, sneeze, laugh or strain.
Ways to manage bladder changes
- Strengthening the pelvic floor muscles can help with bladder control. Ask your doctor for a referral to a continence nurse or physiotherapist, or contact the National Continence Helpline on 1800 33 00 66.
- Let your treatment team know if you have bladder or urinary problems, as they will be able to suggest strategies and may recommend medicines. To help manage these side effects, drink plenty of fluids, limit strong coffee and tea, and avoid drinking alcohol.
The blood vessels in the bladder and bowel can become more fragile after radiation therapy. This may mean you see blood in your urine or bowel motions, even months or years after treatment. Always let your doctor know if you notice new or unusual bleeding.
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Download a PDF booklet on this topic.
Prof June Corry, Radiation Oncologist, GenesisCare, St Vincent’s Hospital, VIC; Prof Bryan Burmeister, Senior Radiation Oncologist, GenesisCare Fraser Coast, Hervey Bay Hospital, and The University of Queensland, QLD; Sandra Donaldson, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; Jane Freeman, Accredited Practising Dietitian (Cancer specialist), Canutrition, NSW; Sinead Hanley, Consumer; David Jolly, Senior Medical Physicist, Icon Cancer Centre Richmond, VIC; Christine Kitto, Consumer; A/Prof Grace Kong, Nuclear Medicine Physician, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; A/Prof Sasha Senthi, Radiation Oncologist, The Alfred Hospital and Monash University, VIC; John Spurr, Consumer; Chris Twyford, Clinical Nurse Consultant, Radiation Oncology, Cancer Rapid Assessment Unit and Outpatients, Canberra Hospital, ACT; Gabrielle Vigar, Nurse Unit Manager, Radiation Oncology/Cancer Outpatients, Cancer Program, Royal Adelaide Hospital, SA.
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