Radiotherapy Prostate Cancer Treatments and Side Effects

Radiation therapy is also known as radiotherapy, and it is one of the most well known and reliable treatments that exist for various forms of cancer. It, unquestionably, is a viable intervention for the management of prostate cancer, often used to treat all stages of the disease, especially when surgery fails or is considered to be too risky. There are also such instances as when a patient is unwilling to attempt some other treatment for the disease and would only settle for radiation treatment, or when the doctor has some kind of intuition about some specific case.

The objective of radiotherapy, as with all other forms of prostate cancer treatment, is to kill the mutant prostate cancer cells, this time making use of ionizing radiation. The ionizing radiation, which could be in form of gamma rays or x-rays, has to be absorbed into the patient’s tissue, to damage the DNA in the cancer cells that have the increased probability of apoptosis. The damage done to the cancer cells also happens in some degree to normal prostate cells, but whereas the normal cells are able to repair the radiation damage, the cancerous cancer cells are not, which is how and why radiation therapy works.

There are essentially two different kinds of radiation therapy that are used especially in the treatment of prostate cancer treatment. They are external beam radiation therapy and internal radiotherapy, also known as prostate brachytherapy.

External beam radiation therapy for prostate cancer is delivered by a linear accelerator, producing high-energy x-ray beams that are directed towards the prostate. Because of the narrowness and sensitivity of the region, the radiologist may have to adjust the radiation beam to conform with the shape of the tumor to allow for higher doses to be given to the prostate and the surrounding seminal vesicles with less damage to the bladder and rectum. This is done by a technique called the Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy or IMRT. The procedure often takes weeks to complete while the patient has to maintain daily visits to a radiation therapy center. However, these newer forms of contemporary radiation therapy (the IMRT) tend to be quicker and to have fewer side effects.

Brachytherapy, or internal radiation treatment has today become a popular prostate cancer treatment choice for patients who have low risk features of the disease. It can also be done for visiting patients, and it tends to result in impressive ten-year prognoses for the sufferer, while also affording relatively low morbidity. In this process, the permanent implantation of about a hundred 100 small “seeds” of radioactive material like iodine-125 or palladium-103, through the skin of the perineum directly into the tumor is effected by a simple needle under spinal or general anesthetic. The lower-energy x-rays emitted by the seeds travel only a short distance, but they kill the cancers. Eventually they become inert, although they remain in the prostate permanently.

There is some risk of radiation sickness to the patient, but that is considered minor. Also other side effects like diarrhea and radiation proctitis, impotence and incontinence are considered manageable, especially since they are largely temporary. The side effects often fade with time.

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