Prostate Cancer Radiation Treatments

Radiation treatments for various forms of cancer are called radiation therapy or radiotherapy. Radiotherapy in prostate cancer treatment may actually be used to treat just about all stages the disease, but it is often employed with the intention of curing the disease in the early stages, or as salvage therapy when radical prostatectomy for the patient does not live up to expectations.

Radiation therapy makes use of ionizing radiation in the bid to kill prostate cancer cells. The radiation is absorbed in tissue and damages the DNA in cancer cells, encouraging apoptosis. It damages normal cells in the body too, but while they are able to repair the radiation damage, the cancer cells cannot. Hence radiation kills prostate cancer cells while hurting normal cells in the body only enough for them to repair themselves.

One form of radiation therapy, external beam radiation therapy (EBRT), applies radiation from a linear accelerator source to attack the cancer. It is often difficult to specifically target the regions where there are cancerous tumors in this way, but improved technology makes it possible.

Intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) is a technological advancement that allows for higher doses of radiation to be administered to the prostate and seminal vesicles with less damage to the bladder and rectum exploits. It helps to adjust the radiation beam to conform to the shape of the tumor. Because of IMRT, there are fewer side effects to radiation treatment for prostate cancer.

Prostate brachytherapy (or simply brachytherapy) may be reasonably called internal radiation therapy. It is an ideal prostate cancer treatment for men who have low to intermediate treatment risk features, and so it can even be performed on an outpatient basis. Also referred to as permanent implant brachytherapy, the procedure involves several tiny “seeds” that contain some kind of radioactive material being placed surgically inside the prostate. The seeds give off short-distance, lower-energy x-rays that eventually become inert after killing the cancers.

Naturally, the damage to other cells in the region persists until the effects of the radiation wear off, but even then, brachytherapy is still associated with excellent 10-year outcomes and relatively low morbidity. In addition, the risk of exposure to others is considered to be relatively insignificant. The side effects generally come about a few weeks into treatment – diarrhea and mild rectal bleeding (radiation proctitis), and urinary incontinence and impotence (potentially). The good thing about prostate cancer radiation treatments is that these symptoms tend to improve over time.

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