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Presented by Margaret Straub, MS, PAC
Physician Assistant in Radiation Oncology
University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics
External beam radiation to the pelvis is used to treat a variety of cancers in men and women. Unfortunately, side effects from radiation treatment can present months to years after treatment -ranging from a minor inconvenience to a major impact on the patient’s quality of life. Patients may experience bladder, bowel, sexual, skin and bone side effects depending upon personal risk factors, cancer type, type and location of radiation treatment. An overview of the causes, effects and treatment of each of these categories of side effects will be explored. Some side effects may be reduced with improved treatment planning or type of radiation provided. They may also be affected by patient diet, supplements, medications and overall health. Continuing research is imperative to understand not only how to reduce dose to critical structures, but also to minimize these side effects on the patient’s quality of life. Evolving technology such as IMRT, IGRT, SBRT and others should continue to demonstrate a reduction in adverse side effects from pelvic radiation. It is important that medical dosimetrists are aware of what long-term complications may arise from pelvic irradiation so that they may create treatment plans which help preserve the patient’s quality of life.