Font Size

Prostate Cancer (cont.)

Radiation Therapy

The goal of radiotherapy for men with localized prostate cancer is to deliver enough radiation to the tumor while minimizing radiation to adjacent normal tissues.

Two types of radiation therapy are used in prostate cancer -- external beam radiation therapy and brachytherapy. Both are used to treat prostate cancer that has not spread outside the prostate. In terms of survival, radiotherapy appears to achieve similar results as those obtained with radical prostatectomy.

  • External-beam radiation therapy (EBRT) involves targeting a beam of high-energy radiation directly at the localized cancer. The rasiation beam may include photons or protons today in most cases, depending on the equipment utilized.
  • Radiation therapy has also been used to treat cancer in which there has been localized spread of the cancer outside of the prostate in combination with other types of treatment (surgery).
  • Side effects of external beam radiation are usually temporary and may include:
    • Skin burning or irritation
    • Hair loss at the area where the radiation beam goes through the skin
    • Severe fatigue
    • Diarrhea
    • Erectile dysfunction
    • Urinary frequency, discomfort at urination, and/or urgency
    • Some studies have shown an increased risk of bladder and rectal cancer with radiotherapy. However, the magnitude of this risk remains small and the risk of dying from a secondary malignancy at 10 to 15 years after treatment is no higher than the perioperative mortality associated with radical prostatectomy.
  • Brachytherapy (internal or implanted radiation) is a variation of radiation therapy in which a small radioactive pellet is implanted into the prostate. An imaging technique, such as transurethral ultrasound (TRUS), CT, or MRI, is used to accurately place the radioactive pellets. This provides radiation to a smaller area than external-beam radiation and minimizes exposure of surrounding normal tissue. The pellets provide radioactivity for weeks to months and can simply be left in place once exhausted. In comparison to external beam radiotherapy, this treatment requires only a one-time treatment, rather than the daily therapy required in EBRT.
  • The main complications of brachytherapy are:
    • Urinary symptoms including transient urinary frequency, urgency, and discomfort at urination
    • Erectile dysfunction
    • Gastrointestinal symptoms
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/31/2015

Must Read Articles Related to Prostate Cancer

Bone Cancer
Bone Cancer Bone cancer is a malignant...learn more >>
18 Cancer Symptoms
Cancer Symptoms Most symptoms and signs of cancer may also be explained by harmless conditions, so it's important to limit one's risk factors and undergo appropriate cancer scr...learn more >>
Cancer: What You Need to Know
Cancer: What You Need to Know The news comes like a sledgehammer into the stomach: "I'm sorry to tell you, but you have cancer." Every year, a million Americans are devastated by news of can...learn more >>

Patient Comments & Reviews

The eMedicineHealth doctors ask about Prostate Cancer:

Prostate Cancer - Symptoms

The symptoms of prostate cancer can vary greatly from patient to patient. What were your symptoms at the onset of your disease?

Prostate Cancer - Diagnosis

How was your prostate cancer diagnosed?

Prostate Cancer - Treatment

What was the treatment for your prostate cancer?

Prostate Cancer - Prognosis

What is your prostate cancer prognosis?

Prostate Cancer - Surgery

Did you opt for surgery for your prostate cancer? Why or why not?

Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Medical Dictionary