Well-being and recovery (men)

Following a healthy lifestyle can help your recovery and reduce the risk of some late effects. It can also help with other health problems and reduce the risk of certain types of cancer. Living a healthier lifestyle includes:

  • not smoking
  • eating healthily
  • keeping to a healthy weight
  • being physically active
  • staying within recommended alcohol guidelines.

You may already being do these things or you may want to make some changes to improve your overall health.

Some people may be advised to do exercises to strengthen muscles that help with bladder and bowel control. Your cancer doctor or nurse will tell you if these may be helpful.

Well-being and recovery

After radiotherapy, you may want to think about ways you can help your own recovery. Here we’ve included some ideas for improving your overall health. Some of these suggestions may help to reduce any ongoing side effects and the risk of developing certain late effects, other health problems and some cancers. These may be things you have always done or are already doing for yourself.

If you smoke, get help to stop

Smoking increases side effects during radiotherapy, so the best time to stop is before you start treatment. But it’s never too late to benefit from giving up smoking.

Smoking makes side effects worse, increases the risk of developing late effects and makes any late effects more severe. For example, smoking increases bladder symptoms and makes problems with diarrhoea worse. It can contribute to erectile dysfunction and increase the risk of bone thinning (osteoporosis).

Continuing to smoke also puts you at risk of developing a new cancer.

Giving up smoking is one of the healthiest decisions you can make. It can be hard to stop when you’re already feeling stressed, but there’s a lot of support available. If you want help and advice on how to stop, you can talk to your cancer specialist, specialist nurse or GP. You can also contact one of the national helplines.

Eat healthily

Eating healthily will help you feel better and give you more energy. In general, a healthy diet includes five portions of fresh fruit and vegetables every day and not too much red or processed meat.

However, after pelvic radiotherapy, some people may not be able to cope with as much fruit and fibre in their diet. If changes in your bowel habit are affecting what you can eat, talk to your cancer specialist or nurse. They can refer you to a dietitian for advice.

Keep to a healthy weight

Being overweight is a risk factor for some cancers and other health conditions such as heart problems and diabetes. It also puts pressure on your pelvic floor muscles and your joints.

Look after your pelvic floor muscles

Pelvic floor muscles support the organs in the pelvis and are important for bladder and bowel control. Radiotherapy to the pelvis can weaken these muscles. They are also naturally weakened by childbirth, the menopause and getting older.

Some people are advised to do regular pelvic floor exercises after pelvic radiotherapy. It’s important to do pelvic floor exercises correctly, so you’ll usually be referred to a physiotherapist or nurse specialist who will teach you how to do them.

Keep physically active

Keeping active will help build up your energy levels. It will also help you to keep to a healthy weight, strengthen your bones and protect your heart. Regular physical activity reduces stress and can help you sleep better.

Walking is a good way of staying physically active. You don’t need any special equipment and you can gradually build up how much you do. There are lots of other types of physical activity you can try too.

Stick to sensible drinking guidelines

Alcohol can make bladder and bowel side effects worse. Current guidelines recommend that both men and women should drink no more than 14 units of alcohol a week. They also recommend that everyone should have some alcohol-free days every week.

Back to Pelvic radiotherapy explained

Fertility and pelvic radiotherapy

Pelvic radiotherapy can affect your fertility. This can be distressing but getting the right support can help you to find ways of coping.