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How Radiation Therapy Works for Prostate Cancer

Understanding your prostate cancer treatment is almost as important as discovering you have prostate cancer. You cannot defeat the monster without knowing about it, but understanding how you will defeat it is equally as important. At the least, understanding what you will go through can help you prepare to avoid complications, like side effects of radiation, prostate infection and other afflictions that can accompany a prolonged anti-prostate cancer regiment. Here are the basics of your treatment.

Prostate exam

The Basics

The good news is that radiation is typically used when the prostate gland cancer is low grade and confined to the prostate gland. That means your cure rate is on par with those treated with a radical prostatectomy, which is very high. It also can be used if the cancer has just begun to spread external to the prostate or if the cancer comes back after surgery.

The one exception to this is when your cancer treatment strategy is focused on controlling the cancer because it is so far advanced. In these cases, radiation is a less intrusive treatment that helps keep the cancer from growing and prevents or relieves symptoms.

Radiation Therapy Types

Two main types of radiation therapy are used: External Beam and Internal (Brachytherapy.) A third type is via injections, but that is primarily used to prevent cancer from spreading.

External Beam Radiation Therapy (EBRT): In this treatment, the radiation is focused on the prostate gland and is used to cure early-stage cancers or to help symptom relief, including bone pain if the cancer is detected to have spread to a specific area of the bone. Treatment is usually outpatient and a prostate exam by the radiation team initiates the treatment establishes correct angles and doses for the radiation. Treatment usually lasts several weeks. Types of EBRT include, but are not limited to 3D-CRT, IMRT, SBRT and Proton Beam Radiation.

Side effects include bowel and urinary problems and if the treatment is long enough, erectile dysfunction, fatigue, Lymphedema and impotence. The upside to the impotency risk is that it is gradual as opposed to surgery, where impotence is immediate.

Brachytherapy: This treatment is also known as “seed implantation” or “interstitial radiation therapy.” It utilizes small pellets that are radioactive and placed directly on the prostate. Generally, it is only used in men with early-stage cancer that is slow to grow. It also can be used in conjunction with external radiation in instances where the cancer is extremely quick growing. Imaging helps guide placement of the pellets and there are two types of implantation, one requiring spinal anesthesia and another that utilizes general anesthesia. There are multiple types of brachytherapy.

Side effects include, but are not limited to the risk a recipient can pose to pregnant women and children, seed migration (which is rare,) bowel, urinary and erection problems.

Each of these therapies helps control side effects like prostate infection, reduce the amount of time spent in direct treatment and enjoy a relatively high success rate. If you have been diagnosed with prostate cancer, check out your options on this website today!