Radiation therapy uses high-dose X-rays or other types of radiation to destroy bladder cancer cells. It may be used alone, before surgery to shrink the cancer, or after surgery to destroy any remaining cancer cells. Radiation therapy may also be used if a person with bladder cancer cannot have surgery.
External beam radiation comes from a machine outside the body. The machine aims radiation at the cancer area. Most people who receive external beam radiation therapy for bladder cancer are treated 5 days a week for 6 to 7 weeks as an outpatient.
Internal (interstitial) radiation therapy (brachytherapy) uses radioactive material contained in tiny tubes, wires, or beads. These are surgically placed in or near the tumor.
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What To Expect After Treatment
Radiation therapy for bladder cancer often causes fatigue. You may also have problems with nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or urinary discomfort. Home treatment and medication may help relieve these side effects.
Both men and women may have sexual problems following radiation therapy for bladder cancer. Women may experience vaginal dryness, and men may experience erection problems.
Why It Is Done
Radiation therapy destroys cancerous cells. It is commonly used with surgery to prevent bladder cancer from coming back (recurring). It is also a treatment choice if surgery is not recommended for another medical reason. Radiation can also be used to treat symptoms such as pain in advanced bladder cancer.
How Well It Works
Radiation therapy helps prevent recurrence of bladder cancer. It is more effective when it is used in combination with chemotherapy than when it is used alone.
Radiation therapy may cause a decrease in your white blood cells (leukopenia), which increases your risk of developing an infection. Your doctor will monitor your blood counts regularly and may change your treatment schedule until your white blood cell count returns to normal. You may also have side effects from radiation, such as:
• Pain or discomfort when urinating.
• Bladder inflammation and scarring (radiation cystitis).
Home treatment and medication may help relieve these side effects.
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