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Radiation therapy uses high energy x-rays to destroy cancer cells. A radiation oncologist will customize the treatment dose for individual needs. The goal is to try and kill as much cancer while minimizing harm to healthy tissue. Radiation therapy is generally most effective when used in combination to other treatments, such as surgery and chemotherapy. It may be used to destroy remaining cancer cells after surgery, or rarely, as an alternative for people who can not tolerate surgery.

There are different types of radiation therapy, but external beam radiation is used to treat bladder cancer. In external beam radiation therapy, radiation is produced by a machine positioned outside the body. Short bursts of x-rays are directed at the cancer. The radiation oncologist will direct the radiation beam to affect as much cancer (and as little normal tissue) as possible.

Radiation of a Tumor


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Complications of radiation therapy to the pelvic area may include:

  • Men having difficulty getting and maintaining an erection.
  • Women experiencing vaginal dryness, causing discomfort during intercourse.
  • Infertility—If you plan on having children, talk to your doctor. There may be options to preserve fertility before treatment.

A variety of treatments are available to help manage side effects of radiation therapy, such as dry, irritated skin, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and fatigue due to anemia. Treatments are available to help manage these side effects. Sometimes adjustments to treatment doses may also be possible. The earlier side effects are addressed, the more likely they will be controlled with a minimum of discomfort.

References:

Bladder cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/cid/documents/webcontent/003085-pdf.pdf. Accessed June 30, 2015.

Bladder cancer. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated May 14, 2015. Accessed June 30, 2015.

Bladder cancer. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/genitourinary-disorders/genitourinary-cancer/bladder-cancer. Updated November 2013. Accessed June 30, 2015.

Treatment option overview. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/types/bladder/patient/bladder-treatment-pdq. Updated May 29, 2015. Accessed June 30, 2015.



Last reviewed May 2015 by Mohei Abouzied, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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