Radiation therapy uses high energy x-rays to destroy cancer cells. Special tools and dosing will help to kill as much of the cancer as possible while minimizing the effect on nearby healthy tissue. A radiation oncologist will customize the treatment dose for individual needs.
Radiation therapy may be given:
Types of radiation therapy used for prostate cancer:
External radiation passes radiation from a machine outside the body, through the skin to cancer area. Delivery methods help to deliver the maximum amount of radiation possible to the tumor while minimizing exposure to healthy surrounding tissue. Methods to improve delivery include:
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This is also called internal radiation therapy. Radioactive material in a specialized container is placed near the tumor. This allows a higher dose of radiation to be delivered directly to the tumor. To treat prostate cancer, a brachytherapy is done with a process called seed implantation. Small pellets are placed in the prostate gland. The seeds can be:
In some cases, brachytherapy may be combined with external beam radiation therapy.
Alpha emitter radiation therapy delivers radioactive substances to cancer cells through an IV. The radiation kills cancer cells that have spread to the bones.
Complications of radiation therapy to the pelvic area may include:
A variety of treatments are available to help manage side effects of radiation therapy, such as dry, irritated skin, nausea, vomiting, and fatigue due to anemia. Sometimes adjustments to treatment doses may also be possible. The earlier side effects are addressed, the more likely they will be controlled with a minimum of discomfort.
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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 March 11, 2016. Accessed April 19, 2017.
Smith DP, King MT, Egger S, 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. Updated July 7, 2016. Accessed April 19, 2017.
What is radiation therapy? Urology Care Foundation website. Available at: http://www.urologyhealth.org/urologic-conditions/prostate-cancer/treatment/radiation-therapy. Accessed April 19, 2017.
Last reviewed September 2017 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Mohei Abouzied, MD, FACP Last Updated: 4/19/2017