Radiation therapy is a method used to kill cancer cells. The goal is to try and kill as much cancer as possible. It tends to work best when used with other treatments such as surgery and chemotherapy. It may be used to kill any cancer cells left behind after surgery. Rarely, it may be used for people who can’t have surgery.

External beam radiation is used to treat bladder cancer. Radiation is made by a machine outside the body. Short bursts are aimed at the cancer.

Radiation of a Tumor

Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

As with other methods, there are side effects. These may include:

  • Erectile dysfunction in men.
  • Vaginal dryness in women.
  • Infertility—If you think you’ll have children later, talk to your doctor now. There may be ways to preserve your fertility before you start treatment.
  • Dry skin
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue

There are many ways to manage these problems. In some cases, the dose may be changed. Talk to your healthcare team as soon as these appear so they can be better controlled.


Bladder cancer. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115106/Bladder-cancer. Updated June 26, 2018. Accessed August 2, 2018.

Bladder cancer. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/genitourinary-disorders/genitourinary-cancer/bladder-cancer. Updated October 2017. Accessed August 2, 2018.

Radiation therapy for bladder cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/bladder-cancer/treating/radiation.html. Updated May 23, 2016. Accessed August 2, 2018.

Treatment option overview. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/types/bladder/patient/bladder-treatment-pdq. Updated May 3, 2018. Accessed August 2, 2018.

Last reviewed May 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Mohei Abouzied, MD, FACP  Last Updated: 8/2/2018