Cancer Information

Treating Bladder Cancer: Radiation

Radiation is a way of treating cancer. Radiation uses beams of energy to destroy cancer cells. With each dose, the tumor gets smaller. The cancer cells die and healthy cells take their place. Radiation may be used alone or with chemotherapy, and may be done before or after surgery.

Image of patient undergoing procedure

Destroying Cancer Cells with Radiation

Your radiation oncologist designs a treatment plan for you. This plan is based on an evaluation of your disease and overall health. Radiation may be directed at the bladder itself and other areas to which the cancer may have spread.

During Treatment

You’re asked to change into a gown. A technician positions you on the table. Short doses of radiation are aimed at the target areas. Each treatment lasts a few minutes and is given once a day, 5 days a week, for 5–7 weeks. Because some nearby tissue is affected, you may have side effects.

After Treatment

You can return to your normal activities soon after each visit. You may still notice some side effects after your full course of treatment has ended. These usually clear up within a few weeks.

Short-Term Side Effects

  • Mild to moderate diarrhea
  • Bladder irritation (burning, frequent urination)
  • Mild fatigue (low energy)
  • Some loss of pubic hair
  • Rectal irritation or bleeding (rare)

Risks and Possible Complications

  • Continued bladder irritation
  • Loss of bladder function
  • Impotence (problems with erections)
  • Bleeding from bladder (rare)
  • Permanent damage to intestine or rectum (rare)