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Testicular cancer radiotherapy side effects

Men and woman discussing testicular cancer

This page is about possible side effects of radiotherapy for testicular cancer. There is information about

 

A quick guide to what's on this page

Testicular cancer radiotherapy side effects

Radiotherapy causes tiredness and sometimes skin reddening in the area being treated. Tiredness will start during your course of treatment. It will continue for a week or so after your treatment has finished and then gradually get better. The skin in the treatment area may become red and sore (a bit like mild sunburn) but this is uncommon. 

Most men with testicular cancer having radiotherapy will have their abdomen treated. This can cause sickness and diarrhoea. These side effects are usually mild if they occur.

Sickness

You can have tablets to treat or prevent sickness. If you feel sick, tell your radiotherapy doctor or nurse or your radiographer. You should also tell them if you still have sickness, despite the tablets. You can then try another type of anti sickness tablet.

Diarrhoea

Diarrhoea can be reduced or stopped with medicine to slow down your bowel. If you are having frequent diarrhoea, it is important to drink plenty of fluids.

Temporary sperm damage

If you had radiotherapy to treat the lymph nodes at the back of the abdomen there is a small risk of the remaining testicle receiving a dose of radiation, as it is quite close by. So doctors advise men not to try to father a child when having radiotherapy treatment, and for up to a year afterwards. After this time it is usually safe to try for a baby and research has shown that the risk of abnormalities in the baby is not increased.

 

CR PDF Icon You can view and print the quick guides for all the pages in the Treating testicular cancer section.

 

 

Tiredness

Radiotherapy causes tiredness, and hair loss in the treatment area. Tiredness will start during your course of treatment. It will continue for a week or so after your treatment has finished and will then gradually get better. Staying active can help. 

 

Sore skin

In some men, the skin in the treatment area can become red and sore, a bit like mild sunburn. But this is not usually too bad with radiotherapy for testicular cancer, particularly if you only need radiotherapy for 2 weeks.

 

Side effects of radiotherapy to the tummy area (abdomen)

Most men with testicular cancer having radiotherapy will have their tummy (abdomen) treated. This can cause 

These side effects are usually mild. You may not have them at all.

 

Sickness

Sickness can be treated or prevented with tablets. If you feel sick, tell your doctor, radiographer or radiotherapy nurse. Your doctor should give you anti sickness tablets to take every day before your treatment. Tell them if you still have sickness, despite the tablets. You can try another type of anti sickness tablet. Some work better for some people than others.

If you don't feel like eating, you could try a high calorie food supplement drink. You can get these at most chemists. Or your doctor can prescribe them. If you are having real problems with your diet, ask to see a dietician at the hospital where you have treatment.

 

Diarrhoea

Diarrhoea can be helped with medicine to slow down your bowel. Eating a low fibre diet may help. Your radiotherapy department may have leaflets to help you with this. You cut out

  • Whole grain cereals
  • Wholemeal bread
  • Bran
  • Dried fruit
  • Cabbage

Cut down on

  • Fruit juice
  • Fresh fruit
  • Other vegetables

You can eat bananas as they may actually help. You can go back to your healthy diet after the treatment is over. If you are having frequent diarrhoea, it is important to drink plenty of fluids.

 

Temporary sperm damage

After radiotherapy treatment to the lymph nodes in the abdomen, men may be advised to wait a time before fathering a child in case their sperm has been affected. When treating the lymph nodes, the radiotherapy beams are directed at an area down the middle of the stomach or abdomen, and sometimes at the groin. There is a small risk of the remaining testicle receiving a dose of radiation, as it is quite close by. The testicles are where sperm are made so a lead shield is used to protect the testicle from the radiotherapy beams.

Doctors advise men not to try to father a child when having radiotherapy treatment, and for up to a year afterwards. In a healthy testicle, sperm are constantly being made, so any effects from the radiotherapy should usually only last for a few months after treatment ends.

After this time, research has shown that the risk of abnormalities in the baby is not increased.

You can find more information about having children after testicular cancer treatment on this website.

 

Other side effects

External radiotherapy does not make you radioactive. It is perfectly safe to be with children and pregnant women during your treatment. Other radiotherapy side effects vary depending on the part of the body being treated. There is general information about side effects in our main section about radiotherapy.

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Updated: 12 September 2014