Radiation side effects for prostate cancer vary from person to person based on the dose, type of radiation and the amount of healthy tissue exposed to the radiation beams. The good news? Most side effects are temporary, controllable and improve over time after treatment.
Here’s how to cope with a few of the more common side effects:
Fatigue: You’ll feel like you don’t have any energy and are tired all the time.
What you can do: Try exercise; speak to your radiation oncologist about how much you can handle. Eat a healthy and balanced diet. Plan activities around the times you tend to have the most energy.
Skin problems: Skin may be red, pink, sunburned or tanned; swollen or blistered; or dry, flaky, peeling or itchy.
What you can do: Avoid exposing treated skin to the sun. If you’re at a beach or pool, cover up when not in the water and avoid chlorine, which can be drying. In the shower, clean with fragrance-free soaps.
Bladder problems: You may have incontinence (the loss of control over the release of urine), a burning sensation while you urinate or blood in your urine.
What you can do: You may need to wear a pad for leakage. Ask your radiation oncologist about medication that may help with this issue.
Impotence: You may be unable to achieve or maintain an erection.
What you can do: Ask your radiation oncologist about medication that may help with this issue.
Infertility: Radiation therapy may make you infertile.
What you can do: If it’s a concern, your radiation oncologist can review your options. You may be able to freeze your sperm before treatment if you want to father a child later.
Bowel changes: You may have issues like diarrhea, blood in the stool, burning with bowel movements or hemorrhoids.
What you can do: The symptoms are temporary for most and can be controlled with medication.