During external beam radiation therapy for prostate cancer (EBRT), radiation is delivered from an outside source that targets the prostate gland.
It is a painless procedure that is similar to getting a typical x-ray.
Men usually receive radiation therapy for prostate cancer 5 days a week for 7 to 9 weeks.
The set-up time each day often takes longer than the actual treatment, which should only take a few minutes.
The first step is a series of tests that are used to pinpoint the areas that need to be treated. This helps to minimize damage to healthy tissues. These tests may include:
Once these areas are located, your man may receive small ink spots on his skin so the technicians will know where to aim the treatment. Don't worry. They are barely noticeable.
CT-scan guided radiation therapy
Some medical centers now do a CT scan every day for the first week or two to get a baseline of how much a man’s prostate gland moves in position from day to day. Then the CT scan is used at set intervals to help ensure accuracy.
This is a good question to ask about prior to radiation therapy for prostate cancer.
There are three commonly used techniques
Three-dimensional conformal radiation therapy for prostate cancer:
Intensity modulated radiation therapy:
Newer machines have built-in imaging scanners, a technological advancement called image-guided radiation therapy. This allows pictures to be taken of the prostate so that positioning adjustments can be made prior to receiving radiation.
Another type of intensity modulated radiation therapy for localized prostate cancer is called:
A man's head is held in place by a metal frame or cage. It is also used to treat cancer that has spread to the brain.
Conformal proton beam radiation therapy:
Is it really better than traditional radiation? Read more.
Potential side effects
After radiation therapy for prostate cancer, some men may experience bowel problems, such as:
There is also a chance of urinary incontinence and impotence after radiation therapy for prostate cancer. These problems may develop over time. Other factors may influence the development of these side effects, including:
Changes over time
You should know that after several years:
Your loved one may feel tired, especially toward the end
of radiation therapy for prostate cancer. This tiredness may last
for several months after treatment has ended. Some men say that
exercising helps with fatigue, but always check with the doctor.
Rarely, men may develop scarring or narrowing of the tube that carries urine from the bladder out of a man's body (called a urethral stricture), which can cause urination problems that require treatment to reopen the urethra.
The American Cancer Society. Prostate Cancer. http://www.cancer.org. Accessed March 17, 2015.
US TOO International, Inc. Pathways for new prostate cancer patients. http://www.ustoo.com. Accessed September 1, 2008.
Always consult a medical professional.