Common short-term side effects of external radiation to the pelvic region include diarrhea, bladder discomfort, a sunburn-like rash (or dryness, peeling, itching, etc.), fatigue, most of which ease within weeks of finishing radiation. These symptoms can usually be managed to some extent with medications such as Immodium for diarrhea or Phenazopyridine for urinary issues, and by getting lots of rest and fluids. Another potential side effect, a narrowing of the vagina, can be addressed during and after radiation treatment with the use of vaginal dilators.
Radiation treatment also causes early menopause in women who have not had a hysterectomy, and menopause has its own set of symptoms, including hot flashes, mood swings and thinning bones. Radiation damage to bone mass can lead to longer-term issues such as a higher likelihood of bone fractures in the pelvis.
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