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Side Effects and Complications of External Beam Radiation


The side effects of radiation are caused by radiation injury to the normal structures closest to the prostate,( see picture of typical radiation prostate field or port here)  so bladder injury (bleeding or frequency) rectal injury (bleeding, diarrhea or pain) and nerves or vessels (impotence.) There is a risk of pelvic radiation increasing the risk of bone fractures (see here.)

With more accurate targeting (e.g. 3d conformal or IMRT) the significant side effects are less (see study.)

* Short Term      * Long Term

Read the more complete section on side effects of radiation to the abdomen/pelvis (here) and rectum (here) and the nursing instruction sheets here.

RTOG Side Effect Consent Form
Radiotherapy may cause reddening or tanning of the skin, hair loss in the treatment area, temporary fatigue, nausea, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, bladder irritation, and in some patients permanent impotence. There is also a small probability of injury to the bladder, urethra, bowel and other tissues in the pelvis or abdomen.
It was reported (Cancer 2001;91:1889) that the dose of radiation to the testicles from external beam irradiation (3 - 8% of target dose or 250-600cGy) is greater than the amount that will damage Leydig cells (and reduce testosterone production, i.e. after a dose of 200cGy) and may result in a reduction of testosterone levels by 27 - 33%