- Prostate cancer
- Management or treatment
- Radiation therapy
- External beam radiation therapy
- Side effects of EBRT
Side effects of EBRT
You may experience some of the following side effects. Most side effects improve gradually over a few weeks after treatment ends. Less commonly, some side effects develop months or years after treatment. These are known as late effects.
The effects of radiation on your body may mean you become tired during treatment. Fatigue may build up during treatment and usually improves 1–2 months after treatment ends, but occasionally can last up to three months.
Radiation therapy can irritate the lining of the bladder and the urethra, the tube urine comes out of. This is known as radiation cystitis.
Symptoms may include the need to pass urine more often or get to the toilet more urgently, a burning feeling when urinating or a slower flow of urine. If you had urinary issues before treatment, you may be more likely to have issues with urine flow.
These side effects are usually temporary and tend to improve within a few months of finishing treatment. In rare cases, radiation therapy can cause blood in the urine, which may require further treatment. If you have any problems with urinating or bleeding, let your doctor know.
Learn more about urinary problems.
Radiation therapy can irritate the lining of the bowel and rectum. Symptoms may include passing smaller, more frequent motions, needing to get to the toilet more quickly, or feeling that you can’t completely empty the bowel. Less commonly, you may bleed when passing a bowel motion. If this happens, let your doctor know. Bowel problems may start during treatment or shortly afterwards and go away within several weeks of finishing treatment. This is different for everyone, and you may have some side effects for longer.
Erection problems (impotence or erectile dysfunction)
The nerves and blood vessels that control erections may become damaged. This can make it difficult to get and keep an erection, especially if you’ve had problems before treatment. Having ADT can also contribute to problems with erections. Erection problems may take a while to appear and can be ongoing.
Changes in ejaculation
You may notice that you feel the sensation of orgasm but ejaculate less or not at all after radiation therapy. This is known as dry orgasm, which may be a permanent side effect. In some rare cases, you may experience pain when ejaculating. The pain usually eases over a few months.
Radiation therapy to the prostate usually causes infertility. If you wish to have children, speak to your doctor before treatment about sperm banking or other options.
Dr Amy Hayden, Radiation Oncologist, Westmead and Blacktown Hospitals, and Chair, Faculty of Radiation Genito-Urinary Group (FROGG), The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiologists, NSW; Prof Shomik Sengupta, Professor of Surgery and Deputy Head, Eastern Health Clinical School, Monash University, and Visiting Urologist and Uro-Oncology Lead, Urology Department, Eastern Health, VIC; A/Prof Arun Azad, Medical Oncologist, Urological and Prostate Cancers, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Ken Bezant, Consumer; Dr Marcus Dreosti, Radiation Oncologist, GenesisCare, and Clinical Strategy Lead, Oncology Australia, SA; A/Prof Nat Lenzo, Nuclear Physician, Specialist in Internal Medicine, Group Clinical Director, GenesisCare Theranostics and The University of Western Australia, WA; Jessica Medd, Senior Clinical Psychologist, Department of Urology, Concord Repatriation General Hospital, and HeadwayHealth Clinical and Consulting Psychology Services, NSW; Caitriona Nienaber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council Western Australia; Graham Rees, Consumer; Kerry Santoro, Prostate Cancer Specialist Nurse, Southern Adelaide Local Health Network, SA; A/Prof David Smith, Senior Research Fellow, Cancer Research Division, Cancer Council NSW; Matthew Starr, Consumer. We also thank the health professionals, consumers and editorial teams who have worked on previous editions of this title. This booklet is funded through the generosity of the people of Australia.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.
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