The pelvis is the area of the body between the hip bones, in the lower part of the tummy (abdomen).
- the sex organs
- the bladder
- a section of the small bowel
- the lower end of the large bowel (colon, rectum and anus).
The pelvis also contains bones, lymph nodes (glands), blood vessels and nerves.
The male pelvis
In men, and people assigned male at birth, the sex organs include the prostate gland, testicles and penis.
The female pelvis
In women, and people assigned female at birth, the sex organs include the ovaries, fallopian tubes, uterus (womb) and vagina.
If you are transgender
The bladder is in your pelvis and its job is to collect, store and pass urine (pee).
The kidneys produce urine. The kidneys are connected to the bladder by muscular tubes called ureters. The bladder is muscular and stretchy so that it can hold the urine until you feel the urge to go to the toilet.
When you need to pee, the urine exits your bladder through a tube called the urethra.
The bladder and urethra are supported by the pelvic floor muscles. The muscle that wraps around the urethra is called the urethral sphincter. It works like a valve to keep the opening at the bottom of the bladder closed until you want to pass urine.
When your bladder is full, it sends a signal to your brain that you need to go to the toilet. The pelvic floor muscles relax to open your urethral sphincter. At the same time, the bladder muscles tighten to push the urine out.
The bowel is part of the digestive system. It is divided into 2 parts:
- the small bowel
- the large bowel.
The large bowel is made up of the colon, rectum and anus.
When you swallow food, it passes down the gullet (oesophagus) to the stomach. This is where digestion begins.
The food then enters the small bowel, where nutrients and minerals are absorbed. The digested food then moves into the colon. This is where water is absorbed. The remaining waste matter (stool, or poo) is held in the rectum (back passage).
Nerves and muscles in the rectum help to hold onto stools until they are passed out of the body through the anus. The anus is the opening at the end of the large bowel. It contains a ring of muscle called the sphincter. This muscle helps to control when you empty your bowels.
Below is a sample of the sources used in our pelvic radiotherapy information. If you would like more information about the sources we use, please contact us at email@example.com
Andreyev HJN, Muls AC, Norton C, et al. Guidance: The practical management of the gastrointestinal symptoms of pelvic radiation disease. Frontline Gastroenterology, 2015; 6, 53-72.
Dilalla V, Chaput G, Williams T and Sultanem K. Radiotherapy side effects: integrating a survivorship clinical lens to better serve patients. Current Oncology, 2020; 27, 2, 107-112.
The Royal College of Radiologists. Radiotherapy dose fractionation. Third edition. 2019. Available from: www.rcr.ac.uk/system/files/publication/field_publication_files/brfo193_radiotherapy_dose_fractionation_third-edition.pdf [accessed March 2021].
This information has been written, revised and edited by Macmillan Cancer Support’s Cancer Information Development team. It has been reviewed by expert medical and health professionals and people living with cancer. It has been approved by Chief Medical Editor, Professor Tim Iveson, Consultant Medical Oncologist.
Our cancer information has been awarded the PIF TICK. Created by the Patient Information Forum, this quality mark shows we meet PIF’s 10 criteria for trustworthy health information.