EBRT refers to the delivery of tightly targeted radiation beams from outside the body. A course of EBRT involves several daily treatments (fractions) over a few days to a few weeks. The radiation oncology team controls the radiation machine (usually a linear accelerator) to generate and direct the radiation beams.

Urinary side effects following EBRT can be described as ‘early’ or ‘late’.

  • Early side effects are those that occur during or shortly after radiotherapy treatment and usually settle a few weeks after treatment finishes.
  • Late side effects are those that take months or years to develop and can be permanent. These side effects can vary from mild to more severe forms and be age-related rather than due to the treatment. However, most men experience mild forms of these side effects and many have none.

Possible early urinary side effects of EBRT include:

  • Urgency (strong sudden urge to urinate and inability to delay it)
  • Frequency (needing to urinate every two hours or less)
  • Pain (any discomfort such as burning, stinging or pain while urinating)
  • Nocturia (need to urinate overnight)
  • Intermittency (a stop/start urinary stream)
  • Dribbling (slight urinary leakage after urinating is completed)
  • Straining (having to push or strain to begin your urinary stream).

Possible late urinary side effects of EBRT include:

  • Weak urinary stream (slow flow with minimal force)
  • Nocturia (need to urinate overnight)
  • Urgency (strong sudden urge to urinate and inability to delay it)
  • Intermittency (a stop/start urinary stream)
  • Dribbling (slight urinary leakage after urinating is completed)
  • Straining (having to push or strain to begin your urinary stream)
  • Urinary stricture (narrowing of the urethra due to scarring that can cause side effects already mentioned).

While urinary incontinence may occur after radiotherapy, this side effect is less common than after surgery. Pelvic floor exercises can help. Talk to members of your healthcare team for information (e.g. Continence nurse).

radiotherapy