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Prostate cancer patient discussing radiation with nurse

A potentially effective treatment for localized prostate cancer, radiation therapy can be used on its own or in combination with surgery or hormone therapy. The most common form is external beam radiation therapy (EBRT), which is similar to a routine X-ray. High-energy beams, which are generated by an external machine (linear accelerator) and aimed directly at the prostate gland, can shrink a tumor and destroy cancerous cells with minimal effect on surrounding healthy tissues. Typically, EBRT is administered five times per week for four to nine weeks.

Because EBRT is a localized treatment, its side effects usually appear in the specific area of the body targeted. When administered for prostate cancer treatment, EBRT often causes urinary and bowel side effects during the second or third week. Most are temporary and gradually improve within several weeks after treatment is completed. In the meantime, any discomfort can usually be managed with medication and supportive care.

Possible side effects of EBRT for prostate cancer

When undergoing EBRT for prostate cancer, some patients experience:

  • Urinary urgency
  • More frequent urination
  • Difficulty starting urination
  • Burning sensations during urination
  • A weak or slow urine stream
  • More frequent bowel movements
  • Smaller and softer stool
  • Occasional diarrhea
  • Rectal irritation
  • A flare-up or worsening of hemorrhoids

Additionally, many patients experience general fatigue during prostate cancer treatment. However, most feel well enough to continue their normal daily activities.

Is EBRT right for you?

If you were recently diagnosed with prostate cancer and are in the process of reviewing your treatment options, you probably have questions. A prostate cancer specialist in the renowned Urologic Oncology Program at Moffitt Cancer Center can provide the reliable answers you need and help you decide if radiation treatment is right for you.

To rapidly connect with an experienced oncologist at Moffitt, call 1-888-663-3488 or complete our new patient registration form online. We provide new patients with access to a cancer expert as soon as possible, which is faster than any other cancer hospital in the nation. You can feel confident that planning for your treatment will begin even before you walk through our doors.