How will radiation therapy affect my bladder function?

The lining of the bladder is sensitive to radiation and may become inflamed (a condition called cystitis) during treatments. Your treatments may cause you to feel:

  • Pain or a burning sensation when you are urinating.
  • The need to urinate frequently (often in small amounts).
  • Pressure or a sense of urgency to go to the bathroom, although you may have very little urine to pass.

The symptoms above may occur during the second or third week of radiation therapy. The symptoms are common and temporary, and they will gradually go away within two to four weeks of completing treatment. Occasionally, blood or mucus may appear in the urine.

What should I do if I have these bladder symptoms?

  • Tell your radiation therapist, nurse or doctor if you have any of the symptoms mentioned above. You may be asked to provide a urine sample to make sure your symptoms are not due to a kidney or bladder infection. Your health care provider may prescribe medication for you.
  • Drink at least eight to ten 8-ounce glasses of liquids per day (preferably water). Since coffee, tea or alcohol can make cystitis worse, , try to avoid these beverages or dilute them with water.
  • Wear cotton underwear. Cotton boxer shorts may be a comfortable choice.
  • Wear loose clothing. Avoid wearing tight pants, belts or clothing that puts pressure on your waist and abdomen.