Radiation Therapy for Prostate Cancer
Michael Jubinville, MPH
Radiation therapy is a method used to kill cancer. The goal is to get as close to the cancer without harming healthy tissue around it. This can be given:
The 2 main types of radiation therapy used for prostate cancer are:
External Beam (EBRT)
Beams of radiation are focused on the prostate gland. It is delivered from a machine outside the body. This type can be used to try to cure early stage cancer. It may also help to ease problems such as bone pain if the cancer has spread. Measurements will be taken before treatment. This is done in an appointment called simulation. It may include CT or MRI scans. They will help to find the best angle and dose of radiation. A plastic mold of your body may also be made. It will help to keep you in the same position for each treatment. This will make the radiation aim more accurate. EBRT is often given 5 days a week for several weeks. Each treatment is like getting an x-ray with stronger radiation. The procedure is painless. Each treatment lasts only a few minutes. Setup time before treatment takes longer.
Types of EBRT include:
Seeds, the size of a grain of rice, are implanted inside the body. They're placed in the prostate between the scrotum and anus. Higher doses of radiation can be used with this method. The seeds can be:
In some cases, you may need more than one type of brachytherapy.
Alpha emitter radiation therapy is delivered to the cancer through an IV. It’s used to kill cancer that’s spread to the bones.
Side Effects and Management
Radiation aimed at the pelvis causes irritation. You may have:
There are many ways to treat these problems. Other common issues are dry, sore skin, nausea, vomiting, and feeling tired because of anemia. Talk to your healthcare team as soon as these symptoms appear so they can be better controlled. In some cases, the dose of radiation may be changed.
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Radiation therapy for prostate cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/prostate-cancer/treating/radiation-therapy.html. Updated August 1, 2019. Accessed December 11, 2019.
Smith DP, King MT, et al. Quality of life three years after diagnosis of localised prostate cancer: population based cohort study. BMJ. 2009;339:b4817.
Treatment option overview. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/types/prostate/patient/prostate-treatment-pdq#section/_142. Updated October 12, 2018. Accessed December 11, 2019.
What is radiation therapy? Urology Care Foundation website. Available at: https://www.urologyhealth.org/urologic-conditions/prostate-cancer/treatment/radiation-therapy. Accessed December 11, 2019.
Last reviewed September 2019 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Nicole Meregian, PA
Last Updated: 12/1/2020
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