Radiation therapy is one of the most common treatments for prostate cancer. Radiation therapy involves the use of high-energy rays or radiation to kill cancer cells. Radiation therapy is typically recommended if the cancer is still localized and has not yet spread outside the prostate gland. Radiation can be used after surgery and combined with hormone therapy. Radiation therapy can prevent the tumor from growing and relieve symptoms of prostate cancer.
Two main types of radiation therapy used in prostate cancer treatment are external beam radiation therapy (EBRT) and brachytherapy (internal radiation). Let’s explore these two forms of treatment and how they are used to target cancer cells in the prostate.
External Beam Radiation Therapy for Prostate Cancer Treatment
EBRT is the most common form of radiation therapy. Patients will receive EBRT treatment at an outpatient center. It involves aiming beams of radiation on the prostate gland from outside the body. With EBRT, doctors can adjust the strength of radiation and reduce exposure to nearby healthy tissues by using different techniques.
The preciseness of the procedure, possible damage to healthy tissue, and negative side effects are major concerns with radiation therapy for prostate cancer treatment. Special computers help doctors map out the location of cancer so they can avoid damage to the nearby healthy tissues by using different aiming techniques. This is called three-dimensional conformal radiation therapy (3D-CRT).
A more advanced form of 3D-CRT is intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) where a computer moves around the body as it delivers radiation from different angles at different intensity levels.
Newer machines have built-in imaging scanners that allow the doctor to first take pictures of the prostate gland and place markers before delivering radiation treatment. This is called image-guided radiation therapy (IGRT). This allows for greater precision and reduced damage to surrounding healthy tissue.
Stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT) is often associated with the names of the machines used such as Cyberknife or X-Knife. This treatment is also guided by imaging techniques and involves the delivery of higher doses of radiation. Because the radiation exposure is more concentrated, this can mean fewer treatments.
Proton beam therapy is another form of EBRT. Protons instead of beams of radiation are targeted at the cancer. Protons help minimize damage to nearby healthy tissue by releasing energy only after traveling a certain distance, stopping at the borders of the tumor, and preventing an exit dose.
Brachytherapy, also called seed implantation, involves radioactive pellets with a titanium shell that are implanted into the prostate. The pellets will give off radiation that destroy the cancer cells. Because the radiation only travels a very short distance, damage to healthy tissue is minimized. Usually, about 100 radioactive pellets are used. These are left in place, even after they have run out of radioactive material.
Men who are diagnosed with early-stage prostate cancer have several treatment options to consider. It is necessary to talk to your doctor or urologist about when to begin screening for prostate cancer. The American Cancer Society recommends that men at high risk for prostate cancer begin screenings at age 40, and men at moderate risk start at age 50.
Dr. Desiderio Avila Jr. of Ironwood Urology is a board-certified urologist who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of men’s health issues. Dr. Avila will help you manage your health by making recommendations for screenings according to your medical history, lifestyle, and other risk factors. Dr. Avila completes prostate cancer screenings in the office and can coordinate treatment if you are diagnosed with a condition.
It’s time to get serious about prostate health. To schedule a consultation with Dr. Avila, call us today at (480) 961-2323 or use our convenient online request form. We look forward to serving all your men’s health needs in our urology clinic in Phoenix.