About pelvic radiotherapy

Radiotherapy treats cancer by using high-energy rays to destroy the cancer cells, while doing as little harm as possible to healthy cells. 

In men, pelvic radiotherapy can be used to treat cancer of the:

  • prostate gland
  • bladder
  • rectum
  • or anus.

In women, pelvic radiotherapy can be used to treat cancer of the:

  • cervix
  • womb
  • vulva
  • vagina
  • bladder
  • rectum
  • anus.

Radiotherapy can be given either from outside the body (externally) or from inside the body (internally). Some people are treated with a combination of both methods.

Your course of radiotherapy will be prescribed by a cancer specialist (clinical oncologist). This is a doctor who specialises in the use of radiotherapy and chemotherapy. The person who operates the machines and helps position you before each treatment is called a radiographer.

The pelvis

The pelvis is the area in the lower part of the tummy (abdomen) between the hips. It contains:

  • the lower end of the large bowel (the colon, rectum and anus) and part of the small bowel (see diagram below)
  • the sexual organs
  • lymph nodes (glands)
  • the pelvic bones.
The large bowel and rectum
The large bowel and rectum

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In men the sexual organs in the pelvis are the; prostate gland, testicles, penis and bladder (see diagram).

The male pelvic area
The male pelvic area

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In women the sexual organs are the; ovaries, fallopian tubes, womb (uterus), cervix and vagina (see diagram below).

The female pelvic area
The female pelvic area

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Back to Pelvic radiotherapy explained

Side effects during treatment

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

Follow up

If side effects don’t go away, or you develop any new symptoms after treatment is over tell your cancer doctor.