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Radiation Side Effects

Long-Term Side Effects of Prostate Radiation

Advances in modern radiation technology have enabled more precise targeting of tumors during radiation treatment, with less exposure to surrounding healthy tissue. While prostate radiation therapy is a safe and effective treatment option for prostate cancer that is used in more than half of patients, as with most therapies, there are still potential long-term side effects that can occur following treatment.


Common Long-Term Side Effects of Prostate Radiation:

  1. Urinary Dysfunction:
    • Urinary incontinence: Some patients may experience mild to moderate urinary leakage or incontinence, which can be managed with pelvic floor exercises and lifestyle modifications.
    • Urinary frequency and urgency: Long-term changes in urinary frequency and urgency may occur, but they can often be controlled with medication or behavioral modifications.
  2. Erectile Dysfunction:
    • Radiation therapy can cause erectile dysfunction in some men, but there are several treatment options available. Discussing concerns with a healthcare professional can help determine the most suitable approach.
  3. Bowel Problems:
    • Radiation proctitis: This condition involves inflammation of the rectal lining and may result in symptoms such as rectal bleeding, diarrhea, or bowel urgency. Lifestyle changes, dietary adjustments, and medications can help alleviate these symptoms.
    • Bowel obstruction: In rare cases, long-term bowel obstruction may occur. If you experience persistent abdominal pain, bloating, or changes in bowel habits, seek medical attention promptly.

Managing Long-Term Side Effects of Prostate Radiation:

  • Open communication: Maintain regular contact with your treatment team and discuss any concerns or symptoms that arise during or after treatment.
  • Healthy lifestyle: Adopting a healthy lifestyle that includes a balanced diet, regular exercise, and adequate hydration can support overall well-being and potentially mitigate side effects.
  • Supportive care: Various supportive therapies, such as pelvic floor exercises, sexual health counseling, patient support groups and psychological support, can aid in managing long-term side effects and enhance quality of life.

How Rectal Spacing Can Help Prevent Side Effects

While there are many options to manage long-term side effects of prostate radiation, prevention is also key during treatment. In addition to the precise targeting of modern radiation technology, Barrigel rectal spacer has been proven to minimize radiation dose to the rectum during prostate radiation treatment, reducing the risk of long-term rectal side effects.1 Discuss your treatment options with your doctor, as well as options for preventing and reducing potential side effects.


  1. Mariados NF, Orio PF III, Schiffman Z et al. Hyaluronic acid spacer for hypofractionated prostate radiation therapy: A randomized clinical trial. JAMA Oncol. 2023: e1-e8.