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Radiation Treatment for Bladder Cancer

Side Effects of Radiation Treatment for Bladder Cancer

The side effects of radiation treatment for bladder cancer will depend on the treatment dose and the part of the body that is treated.
 
Patients are likely to become very tired during radiation treatment for bladder cancer, especially in the later weeks of treatment. Resting is important, but doctors usually advise patients to stay as active as they can.
 
Common side effects of external radiation include:
 
  • Permanent darkening or "bronzing" of the skin in the treated area
  • Hair loss in the treated area
  • Red, dry, tender, and itchy skin.
     
Hair loss and skin irritations are temporary, and the doctor can suggest ways to relieve them. Radiation treatment to the abdomen may cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or urinary discomfort, and the doctor can suggest medicines to ease these problems.
 
Radiation treatment for bladder cancer also may cause a decrease in the number of white blood cells, which are cells that help protect the body against infection. If the blood counts are low, the doctor or nurse may suggest ways to avoid getting an infection. Patients usually do not get more radiation therapy until blood counts improve, and the doctor will check the patient's blood counts regularly and change the treatment schedule if necessary.
 
For both men and women, radiation treatment for bladder cancer can lead to sexual side effects. Women may experience vaginal dryness, and men may have difficulty with erections (impotence). Although the side effects of radiation treatment for bladder cancer can be distressing, doctors can usually treat or control side effects. It may also be helpful to know that, in most cases, side effects are not permanent.
 
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