Radiation therapy uses high-energy radiation to kill cancer cells.
Radiation therapy can be used:
Radiation therapy is often given along with chemotherapy to help the radiation work better. This is called chemoradiation.
The type of radiation most often used to treat bladder cancer is called external beam radiation therapy. It focuses radiation from a source outside of the body on the cancer.
Before your treatments start, your radiation team will take careful measurements to find the exact angles for aiming the radiation beams and the proper dose of radiation. This planning session, called simulation, usually includes getting imaging tests such as CT or MRI scans. This helps the doctor map where the tumor is in your body. You'll be asked to empty your bladder before simulation and before each treatment.
The treatment is a lot like getting an x-ray, but the radiation is stronger. Radiation doesn't hurt. Each treatment lasts only a few minutes, but the setup time – getting you into place for treatment – usually takes longer. Most often, radiation treatments are given 5 days a week for many weeks.
Side effects of radiation depend on the dose given and the area being treated. They tend to be worse when chemo is given along with radiation. They can include:
These effects usually go away over time after treatment, but some people can have longer-term problems. For instance:
If you have side effects from radiation therapy, talk to with your health care team. They can suggest ways to ease many of them.
Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.
Last Revised: January 30, 2019