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Radiation Side Effects

Side effects of radiation for prostate cancer

For men diagnosed with prostate cancer, there are several treatment options available. Depending on the stage of the cancer, radiation for prostate cancer might be used.

More than half of all people with cancer receive radiation therapy as part of their treatment, as it can greatly improve a patient’s prognosis and quality of life following a prostate cancer diagnosis.1,2 However, radiation beams can potentially affect healthy tissue near the prostate and result in long-term radiation side effects. Due to its close proximity to the prostate, the rectum is most at risk for radiation beam exposure. Barrigel rectal spacer helps protect the rectum and healthy surrounding tissue by minimizing the radiation exposure to them during treatment.3


Short-term radiation side effects

You may experience some short-term side effects of radiation therapy.


Acute (short-term) symptoms may include:

  • Temporary urinary symptoms such as not being able to hold urine in for a long time
  • The immediate need to urinate and feeling the need to urinate more often during the day (urinary urgency)

You may also experience some short-term rectal problems such as needing to have a bowel movement more often than usual (bowel incontinence), loose stools, or diarrhea.

Your doctor may prescribe medications or lifestyle changes to address these side effects. If you are experiencing any of the above radiation side effects, you should visit your doctor.


Long-term radiation side effects

The long-term side effects of radiation therapy may include:

  • Radiation proctitis (swelling of the rectum)
  • Bladder inflammation (cystitis)
  • Urinary or rectal bleeding
  • Narrowing of the rectum or urethra
  • Chronic diarrhea or urinary frequency or urgency (urinary incontinence)
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Development of an ulcer in the rectum

If you are experiencing any of the above radiation side effects, you should visit your doctor.


Minimizing radiation side effects

Barrigel rectal spacer can help minimize prostate radiation side effects by temporarily positioning the rectum away from the prostate during radiation therapy for prostate cancer, which reduces the radiation dose delivered to the rectum. Barrigel is composed of biocompatible material that is naturally absorbed by the body and maintains space for the entire course of your prostate radiation treatment.3


  1. Atun R, Jaffray DA, Barton MB et al. Expanding global access to radiotherapy. Lancet Oncol. 2015;16(10):1153-86.
  2. Pienta KJ, Gorin MA, Rowe SP et al. A Phase 2/3 prospective multicenter study of the diagnostic accuracy of prostate specific membrane antigen PET/CT with 18 F-DCFPyL in prostate cancer patients (OSPREY). J Urol. 2021;206(1):52-61.
  3. 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.