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Radiation Side Effects

Short-Term Side Effects of Prostate Radiation

Modern radiation technology involves accurate targeting of tumors during radiation treatment, minimizing radiation exposure to surrounding healthy tissue. While radiation therapy is a safe and effective treatment option for prostate cancer, there are still potential short-term (acute) side effects. Many of these short-term side effects of prostate radiation vary from patient to patient and can resolve on their own, while others may require treatment.


Common short-term side effects of prostate radiation:

  1. Urinary Side Effects:
    • Increased frequency: Some patients may experience a temporary increase in urinary frequency or urgency during the course of radiation therapy.
    • Urinary discomfort: Mild urinary discomfort or a burning sensation during urination can occur, but these symptoms usually subside over time.
    • Blood in urine: In rare cases, patients may notice small amounts of blood in their urine, which is generally temporary and resolves on its own.
  2. Fatigue: Radiation therapy can cause fatigue or increased tiredness. Getting ample rest, maintaining a balanced diet, and engaging in light physical activities can help manage fatigue.
  3. Skin Irritation: External beam radiation therapy may lead to mild skin irritation or redness in the treatment area. Proper skincare and the use of recommended ointments or creams can alleviate discomfort.
  4. Sexual Side Effects: Some men may experience temporary changes in sexual function, including erectile dysfunction or decreased libido. These effects are usually transient, but it’s important to discuss any concerns with your healthcare provider.
  5. Rectal Side Effects:
    • Bowel Changes: Radiation therapy can cause temporary bowel changes, such as increased frequency, urgency, or diarrhea. These effects generally resolve within a few weeks after treatment completion.
    • Rectal Discomfort: Some individuals may experience mild rectal discomfort, irritation, or a sensation of fullness. These symptoms typically subside over time.


Short-term side effects of prostate radiation can:

1. Cause temporary discomfort for patients and interfere with daily activities

2. Potentially pause or delay radiation treatment when side effects are moderate to severe

3. Increase the risk of developing long-term side effects


Rectal Spacing to Reduce Side Effects:

The use of Barrigel rectal spacer, implanted prior to treatment, can help prevent and minimize short-term side effects of prostate radiation by protecting the rectum from radiation exposure during radiation treatment.1

It’s important to understand the potential side effects prior to radiation therapy and discuss any symptoms you may have with your doctor following treatment.



  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.