How Can Radiotherapy Help With Prostate Cancer?
Radiotherapy is perhaps one of the longest standing known treatments for various forms of cancer across the spectrum of the disease all over the world. Discovered late in the 19th century by German Wilhelm Konrad Rontgen, it was already in use for medical purposes by the turn of the century, and today, there are constantly newer and newer applications for the radiation in medicine, and it remains one of the favorite options for cancer treatment.
Specifically, doctors prescribe treatment for prostate cancer patients based on the apparent aggression of the carcinoma, the stage of its growth, whether or not it has metastasized, the age of the patient, and his general health. Naturally, the purpose of treatment is to eliminate all of the cancer, or at the very least, as much of it as possible. For this reason, they aim to catch a patient’s prostate cancer in its earliest stage for if the malignancy is at a very advanced stage, the purpose of the treatment may only be palliative for the most part, intended toward making the patient as comfortable as possible for as long as they can manage.
Therapeutic radiology in particular (or radiation therapy, or radiotherapy) makes use of high-energy particles or waves (x-rays or gamma rays) to focus damaging radiation on the region of a prostate tumor with the intent of inflicting as much genetic damage on the tumor as possible. The radiation often causes damage to most of the cells in its path, meaning that it is harmful even to healthy cells in the human body. However, even though this same radiation therapy kills cancerous cells, it only damages healthy cells such that they are able to reproduce quickly.
As a consequence of the damage, though, there are side effects to radiation treatment for prostate cancer, and indeed various other forms of cancer. The patient will tend to experience such symptoms as fatigue, skin changes, and loss of appetite, and radiation proctitis, which may result in diarrhea and mild rectal bleeding. Other side effects may be related specifically to the areas that are being treated, which in case of prostate cancer might be fecal and urinary incontinence, including the milder hair loss and a decrease in the number of white blood cells. The upside of this is that most of the side effects of radiation treatment for prostate cancer are short-lived because the healthy tissues recover from radiation much more efficiently, and the patient’s health is restored.
Generally, prostate cancer treatments may be administered alone or in various combinations with one another. Radiation therapy in particular is often an alternative to surgery in many cases. One form, external radiation therapy, beams radiation from a machine onto the body; a second application (brachytherapy) applies internal radiation therapy through radioactive material sealed in “seeds” inserted into the prostate.
Radiotherapy may also be employed for later stages of prostate cancer, but often simultaneously with chemotherapy, immunotherapy, or prostatectomy; or one after the other.
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