Radiation therapy kills cancer cells and surrounding tissues with directed radioactive exposure. It can be used as an initial treatment or for men with advanced or recurrent prostate cancer.
There are several options. Discuss with your doctor which is best for you:
External Beam Radiation Therapy
This is the most common type of radiation therapy. CT scans and MRIs help map out the location of the tumor cells, and X-rays are targeted to those areas. With 3-D conformal radiotherapy, a computerized program maps out the exact location of the prostate tumors so the highest dose of radiation can reach the cancer cells within the gland.
Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy
This is a more sophisticated type of external beam radiation. Oncologists can change the intensity of doses and radiation beams to better target the radiation delivered to the prostate, while simultaneously delivering lower doses to those tumor cells immediately adjacent to the bladder and rectal tissue. Because the treatment planning with these types of radiation therapy is far more precise, higher—and more effective—doses of radiation can be used with less chance of damaging surrounding tissue.
Treatment courses for radiation therapy usually run five days a week for about seven or eight weeks, and are typically done on an outpatient basis.
Tiny metal pellets containing radioactive iodine or palladium are inserted into the prostate via needles that enter through the skin behind the testicles. As with 3-D conformal radiation therapy, careful and precise maps ensure the seeds are placed in the proper locations.
For several months, the seeds give off radiation to the immediate surrounding area, killing the prostate cancer cells. By the end of the year, the radioactive material degrades, and the seeds that remain are harmless.