Colon Cancer Home > Radiation Treatment for Colon Cancer

X-rays or other forms of radiation can be used to treat colon cancer. The radiation may be administered from a machine outside the body or from radioactive material placed directly into or near the cancer. Side effects of radiation treatment for colon cancer may include nausea, vomiting, fatigue, and diarrhea.

Treating Colon Cancer With Radiation: How Does It Work?

Radiation treatment for colon cancer (also known as radiotherapy) uses high-energy x-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells. There are two different types:
  • External radiation uses a machine outside the body to send radiation toward the cancer
  • Internal radiation uses a radioactive substance sealed in needles, seeds, wires, or catheters that are placed directly into or near the cancer.
The way the radiation treatment is administered depends on the stage of colon cancer being treated.

Side Effects Associated With Radiation Treatment for Colon Cancer

When treating colon cancer with radiation, side effects depend mainly on the amount of radiation given and the part of the body that is treated. Radiation therapy to the abdomen (stomach) and pelvis may cause:
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Bloody stools
  • Rectal leakage
  • Urinary discomfort.
In addition, the skin in the treated area may become red, dry, and tender.
People are likely to become very tired during radiation therapy, especially in the later weeks of treatment. Resting is important, but healthcare provider usually advise patients to try to stay as active as they can.
Although the side effects of radiation therapy can be distressing, the doctor can usually treat or control them.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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