What to expect after radiation treatment
for prostate cancer

Depending on the type of radiation for prostate cancer treatment and use of a rectal spacer (if decided upon by you and your doctor), you can expect different immediate side effects and aftercare.

However, most patients continue with normal daily activities shortly after either External Beam Radiation Therapy (EBRT) or brachytherapy.1 There is risk of longer-term radiation side effects with either type of radiation treatment for prostate cancer. Rectal spacers push the rectum away from radiation beam exposure, minimizing rectal toxicity and ultimately reducing treatment side effects.2

Section 1

After external beam radiation therapy (EBRT)

Some side effects from EBRT are similar to those from surgery, while others are different. If choosing EBRT as radiation treatment for prostate cancer, you may have some urinary and bowel side effects that may persist short-term or, in some men, may never go away.3 Bowel problems include radiation proctitis, or damage to the rectum, which may result in diarrhea, blood in the stool, or rectal leakage.3 Radiation can also irritate the bladder and lead to urinating more often, having a burning sensation when you urinate, and/or finding blood in your urine. Other minor problems may include dry itchy skin, a sensation of heaviness in the perineum (proctitis), anal and rectal irritation, and hemorrhoids. Radiation therapy can also cause fatigue that may last for a few weeks to a few months after treatment.3 However, patients are usually well enough to continue with normal daily activities.

Section 2

After brachytherapy

If you have undergone brachytherapy as a radiation treatment for prostate cancer you may experience1:

Burning with urination

Increased frequency of urination

Slow or weak urinary stream

Incomplete emptying of the bladder

Brief period of blood in the urine

Perineal pain or soreness

Scrotal bruising or swelling

Blood spotting from the perineum

Nausea from anesthesia


Most patients continue with normal daily activities shortly after the procedure, although your doctor may ask you to refrain from heavy lifting and strenuous physical activity for a few days.1

Section 3

Follow-up care

It is important to go to all your follow-up appointments. During these visits, your doctors will check your health, ask questions about any problems you may be having, and perform any needed exams and lab or image tests to look for signs of cancer or treatment side effects. It is important to tell your doctor about any new symptoms or problems.3

See additional prostate cancer patient resources available to you and your loved ones to help gain a deeper understanding of what to expect after treatment for prostate cancer.

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  1. University of California San Francisco Health. FAQ: Radiation Therapy for Prostate Cancer. www.ucsfhealth.org Accessed: August 1, 2021. https://www.ucsfhealth.org/education/
  2. Mariados NF, Orio PF, Schiffman Z, et al. Hyaluronic acid spacer for hypofractionated prostate radiation therapy: a randomized clinical trial. JAMA Oncol. 2023;e1-e8.
  3. American Cancer Society. Living as a Prostate Cancer Survivor. www.cancer.org. Accessed: August 1, 2021. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/