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Side Effects of Radiotherapy in Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer is the second most common type of cancer in the United States. Fortunately, the mortality rate is quite low and 98% of treated cases survive 5 years.

Radiotherapy, which consists of the use of high-energy particles or rays that aim to destroy cancer cells, is a very effective treatment for this type of cancer but, at the same time, it generates certain side effects that need to be considered.

What is radiotherapy used for in prostate cancer?

As discussed above, radiation therapy is a treatment used to destroy the cancer cells that form prostate cancer. To do this and prevent the cancer from spreading to other parts of the body, high-energy rays such as X-rays are used.

Long ago, doctors used these X-rays to be able to see inside the human body in order to know if a person was sick or not, for which large doses of energy were not used. However, treatment uses very high doses of radiation for prostate cancer and this can cause various side effects that we will discuss below.

What are the side effects of radiotherapy in prostate cancer?

Short term side effects:

These side effects begin soon after radiation treatment. This affects each patient differently, so it is possible to have one or the other. Always consult with your doctor.

  • Skin irritation in the treatment area: The area may become red, dry, tender, and irritated. It is advisable to take good care of the skin to avoid further irritation by using, for example, warm water and a mild soap, and avoiding perfumed soaps or lotions.

  • Feeling fatigued: This tends to start weeks after starting treatment but goes away over time.

  • Feeling urinary and intestinal changes: Caused by irritation of the urinary tract and rectal tissue, it can result in urinary urgency, pain when defecating or urinating, and diarrhea. Drinking plenty of fluids is recommended.

  • Losing pubic hair: Depending on the person and the case, it may grow back after a few weeks or not at all.

  • Have blood counts such as anemia, neutropenia, or thrombocytopenia.

Long-term side effects:

These side effects can appear months or years after finishing the treatment. Infertility is a major issue and although men may remain fertile after radiation treatment, sperm may be damaged due to radiation exposure.

  • Erectile dysfunction is possible after undergoing radiotherapy. There are many medications that can help solve this problem, consult with your doctor.

  • Bladder problems such as hemorrhagic cystitis, incontinence, bladder cancer or infections may appear. We again recommend talking to your doctor if you notice changes in function.

  • Stomach and bowel problems may appear, including blood in the stool, strictures, colon cancer, and chronic diarrhea.

  • A swelling, lymphedema, may develop if the lymph nodes have been damaged by treatment. Go to your health center if you notice an inflammation in the groin area.

In the case of having side effects from radiation, we recommend that you call your doctor to find out how to handle the situation and feel better in the face of these adverse effects.

If you need more information about any aspect related to cancer, please don’t hesitate to contact us or check ok our patient specific website, we are always here to help you.



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