Most of the side effects of external beam radiotherapy gradually disappear once treatment has finished. Your cancer specialist, nurse or radiographer can tell you what to expect. Tell them about any side effects so that they can help manage them. Radiotherapy causes tiredness, especially if you’re travelling a long way for treatment each day. Try to make sure you get enough rest, but balance this with regular, gentle exercise, which will give you more energy.
Radiotherapy to the prostate area may irritate the rectum, cause soreness around the anus, and cause diarrhoea. Your doctor can prescribe medicines to reduce these effects and you may be advised to make some changes to your diet.
Radiotherapy can also cause inflammation of the bladder (cystitis). You may want to pass urine more often or you may have a burning feeling when you pass urine. Your doctor can prescribe medicines to reduce this. Make sure you drink plenty of fluids. These effects usually disappear gradually a few weeks after the treatment has finished.
A very small number of men may have difficulty passing urine and may need a urinary catheter put in. This is a tube that is placed inside the bladder to help the urine drain out of the body. Very rarely, some men may experience leakage or incontinence of urine.
Radiotherapy to your pelvis may make some of your pubic hair fall out. When you’ve finished your treatment, the hair will grow back. It may be thinner or finer than before.
External beam radiotherapy doesn’t make you radioactive. It’s perfectly safe for you to be around other people, including children, throughout your treatment.
We have information about understanding radiotherapy, which gives more information about this treatment and its side effects.