Radiation therapy uses high energy x-rays to destroy cancer cells. Special tools and dosing will help to kill as much of the cancer as possible with as little impact on nearby healthy tissue as possible. A radiation oncologist will customize the treatment dose for individual needs.

Radiation therapy is mainly used to treat seminomas because they are more sensitive to radiation. However, it may be used in combination with chemotherapy (called chemoradiation) to treat nonseminomas.

Radiation therapy is given:

  • After surgery to kill any remaining cancerous tissue
  • For metastatic cancer to relieve symptoms and extend survival time

External Beam Radiation

In external beam radiation therapy, a machine directs high-energy rays through the body and into the tumor. There are many different radiation machines used for external radiation therapy based on the size and location of the tumor, surrounding tissue, and type of cancer. The radiation oncologist will discuss options, doses, and frequency of radiation so that the highest amount of radiation can be delivered to the cancer with as little impact on healthy tissue as possible. External beam radiation is often given daily over the course of several weeks.

Radiation of a Tumor
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Side Effects and Management

Complications of radiation therapy to the pelvic area may include:

  • Anal and/or rectal irritation causing:
    • Blood in the stool
    • Pain during bowel movements
    • Diarrhea
  • Bladder irritation causing:
    • Incontinence
    • Increased frequency of urination
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Reduced or no fertility—If you plan on having children, talk to your doctor before starting treatment. You may be able to have your semen frozen for future use.

A variety of treatments are available to help manage side effects of radiation therapy, such as dry, irritated skin, nausea, vomiting, and fatigue due to anemia. Sometimes adjustments to treatment doses may also be possible. The earlier side effects are addressed, the more likely they will be controlled with a minimum of discomfort.

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