Follow up

Most of the side effects of radiotherapy should gradually disappear once the treatment has finished. But it may take you some time to recover. Looking after yourself by getting enough rest and gradually increasing your physical activity will help with your recovery. If you smoke, it’s advisable to stop.

Your cancer specialist or nurse should give you specific advice to help with your recovery. For example, they may give you information on:

  • when you can expect to go back to work
  • how to gradually build up your activities.

After treatment, you’ll be seen at the hospital every few months for regular check-ups. Let your cancer specialist or nurse know if the side effects don’t get better, or if you develop new symptoms, even if it’s between appointments.

Share your experience

When treatment finishes, many people find it helps to share their thoughts, feelings and advice with others. This can be especially helpful for other people about to start their treatment. Just hearing how you’ve coped can be very helpful to someone in a similar situation.

We can help you share your story. Call us on 0808 808 00 00 or visit Cancer Voices for more information.

Things to look out for

Always tell your cancer specialist or nurse if any side effects don’t go away, or if you develop any new symptoms or problems after treatment is over.

You should tell them if you:

  • bleed from the vagina, back passage or have blood in your urine
  • have loose stools, diarrhoea or constipation
  • feel you need to go to the toilet although your bowel is empty (tenesmus)
  • have difficulty emptying your bowel
  • wake from sleep to open your bowels, need to rush to open your bowels (urgency), or have accidents (incontinence)
  • need to pass urine often or urgently, leak urine (incontinence), or have pain or difficulty passing urine
  • have swelling in your leg(s)
  • notice pain in your hips or pelvis when you’re walking.

You may feel embarrassed at the thought of talking about problems related to your bowel, bladder or sex life. But doctors and nurses are used to discussing intimate problems like this, so don’t be put off. Your cancer specialist will assess your symptoms and explain if they’re likely to be a result of the radiotherapy. Sometimes, tests are needed to find the cause of your symptoms.

Getting expert help

Depending on the late effects you have and how they affect you, you may be referred to a doctor or nurse with expertise in that area. For example, if you’re having bowel problems, you may be referred to a doctor who specialises in bowel problems, called a gastroenterologist.

There are also some expert doctors who specialise in treating late effects of radiotherapy. But this is a specialised area, so there aren’t many of these doctors. You may have to travel to see one. A few hospitals have special clinics for people with late effects.

Your doctor or nurse can refer you to other specialists if needed.

For more information on the help available, contact the Macmillan Support Line free on 0808 808 00 00.

Back to Pelvic radiotherapy explained

About pelvic radiotherapy

Pelvic radiotherapy can be used to treat cancers of the bladder, rectum, anus, prostate, vulva, vagina, womb or cervix.

Side effects during treatment

You may have side effects during and shortly after your treatment. The healthcare team will help you to manage these.