Radiation to treat prostate cancer
Besides surgery, radiation is often used to treat localized prostate cancer.
At the earlier stages (I and II), cancer is easier to treat, and you are a good
candidate for treatments that can result in long-term survival. Along with radiation,
the other main approaches to managing localized cancer are watchful waiting and
surgery. If your healthcare team thinks watchful waiting is not a good idea, then
they may recommend radiation therapy.
Prostate cancer radiation therapy uses X-rays to kill cancer cells.
Radiation therapy uses high-energy X-rays, emitted either by a machine (external
beam radiation therapy) or by radioactive seeds implanted in the prostate
or “seed implantation”) to kill cancer cells.
When prostate cancer is localized, radiation therapy serves as an alternative to
surgery, or it may be used after surgery to kill the remaining cancer cells.
External beam radiation.
This type of radiation therapy is painless and generally involves being treated
5 days a week for 7 or 9 weeks. If the prostate tumor is large, hormone therapy
may be started before radiation therapy to help shrink a tumor and reduce the risk
The possible side effects of external beam radiation therapy include:
- Inflammation of the rectum
- Inflammation of the bladder
- Problems with urination
Prostate cancer brachytherapy.
With radioactive “seed implantation” or brachytherapy, the implantation procedure
is completed in an hour or two, sometimes under local anesthesia.
How long do the seeds stay implanted in the body?
Depending on the type of cancer, different radioactive seeds may be implanted. Some
implants that deliver low doses of radiation are left in place for 1 to 7 days,
or they are left in permanently. But seeds that deliver higher doses of radiation
are taken out after mere minutes. Whether or not you stay in the hospital after
being implanted depends on the type of radiation that your healthcare team thinks
will most effectively treat your cancer.
The possible side effects of brachytherapy include:
- Post-implant pain in the rectum
- Incontinence or other urinary problems
- Sexual impotence
Find out about treatments
for advanced prostate cancer
Learn about hormone
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