How Does Radiotherapy Treatment Work
Radiation therapy works by use of high doses of radiation to kill or slow down its growth rate. In prostate cancer treatment it is used to kill the cancerous cells or slow the growth rate. It also kills the nearby healthy cells as it kills the cancerous cells.
Where curing the cancer is impossible, radiotherapy is used to reduce the symptoms such as pain caused by cancer tumor. It can also be used to prevent the problems that result from cancer tumor such as loss of bowel and bladder control, blindness etc.
Here are different types of radiations and how they work:
Active Surveillance And Watchful Waiting
If prostate cancer is in an early stage, is growing slowly, and treating the cancer would cause more problems than the disease itself, a doctor may recommend active surveillance or watchful waiting.
Active surveillance. Prostate cancer treatments may seriously affect a person’s quality of life. These treatments can cause side effects, such as erectile dysfunction, which is when someone is unable to get and maintain an erection, and incontinence, which is when a person cannot control their urine flow or bowel function. In addition, many prostate cancers grow slowly and cause no symptoms or problems. For this reason, many people may consider delaying cancer treatment rather than starting treatment right away. This is called active surveillance. During active surveillance, the cancer is closely monitored for signs that it is worsening. If the cancer is found to be worsening, treatment will begin.
ASCO encourages the following testing schedule for active surveillance:
A PSA test every 3 to 6 months
A DRE at least once every year
Another prostate biopsy within 6 to 12 months, then a biopsy at least every 2 to 5 years
Treatment should begin if the results of the tests done during active surveillance show signs of the cancer becoming more aggressive or spreading, if the cancer causes pain, or if the cancer blocks the urinary tract.
Possible Side Effects Of Radiation Treatment For Prostate Cancer
The radiation used to destroy cancer cells can also hurt normal cells in the nearby area. Side effects from radiation treatment are related to the area of the body being treated. Patients start to have side effects a few weeks into their treatment. While side effects may be unpleasant, there are treatments to help deal with them. Most side effects are temporary and slowly start to go away once treatment is done.
You will be seen by your radiation oncology providers often during treatment. These visits are a chance to ask questions and to talk about any side effects and how to best manage them. You can also call your providers to speak about any side effects.
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Swelling Bruising Or Tenderness Of The Scrotum
Symptoms generally resolve on their own within three to five days. Oral anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen are usually sufficient for pain relief, if necessary. You should avoid hot tubs and Jacuzzis for at least two to three days after the procedure. Postpone bike riding until the tenderness is gone.
Focal Therapy For Prostate Cancer
With recent advances in MRI and targeted biopsy, we are better able to locate the exact area of prostate cancer. Men who do not have an enlarged prostate, who have prostate cancer that is detected only in a single region of the prostate and have intermediate grade cancer can be a candidate for focal therapy. This type of therapy treats only the cancerous tissue and spares the normal prostate, thereby preserving urinary and sexual function
Here at UCLA we commonly use cryotherapy or HIFU to focally treat prostate cancer. Given that this is a relatively new form of treatment, we have established rigorous post-treatment protocols using MRI and biopsies to ensure that the cancer has been adequately treated.
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What Are The Dangers Of Radiotherapy Prostate Cancer Treatment
Radiotherapy is considered effective for treatment of cancer with a success rate of above 90%. But is it safe for prostate cancer treatment? Does it cause any side effects? And if yes, are radiation therapy side effects reversible?
Well, radio frequency is pain-free and considered safe for prostate cancer treatment. To help you understand the safety of this procedure we shall look at both the short and long-term side effects resulting from this treatment.
When Is Brachytherapy Alone The Right Choice
For a patient with disease that is confined to the prostate and not too aggressive, brachytherapy alone is a good option. With the use of sophisticated real-time computer-based planning, we can use brachytherapy to deliver radiation in an extraordinarily precise way, with minimal exposure to the surrounding normal tissues. It is also convenient for the patient as it is done in an outpatient setting and most people are able to get back to work the next day.
But brachytherapy is not right for everyone. For some patients with less-aggressive disease, a watch-and-wait approach would also be very reasonable. At MSK, our philosophy is that when the disease is caught very early meaning a low PSA level, or nonaggressive disease as reflected by a Gleason score of 6 with evidence of cancer in only a few of the biopsy samples and no evidence from the MRI of a significant amount of disease then it would be very appropriate to do active surveillance and hold off on treatment.
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Will My Diet Affect My Treatment
Yes. Good nutrition is an important part of recovering from the side effects of radiation therapy. When you are eating well, you have the energy to do the activities you want to do, and your body is able to heal and fight infection. Most important, good nutrition can give you a sense of well-being.
Since eating when you don’t feel well can be difficult, consider working with a dietitian. They can help make sure that you are getting adequate nutrition during your radiation therapy.
What Happens To The Prostate After Radiation
The entire prostate gland is radiated when we treat the cancer. The prostate normally produces some of the fluid in the ejaculation. Radiation therapy has the side effect of damaging the glands in the prostate, so a lot less fluid is produced. The ejaculation may be dry or nearly dry. In addition, you will probably be sterile after radiation, but this is not 100% guaranteed and should not be relied upon as a form of birth control. You can still usually have erections because the nerves and blood vessels that go to the penis are not as damaged as the prostate gland.
The prostate gland will end up having a lot of scar tissue. It will shrink in size to about half its original weight within a couple years after finishing radiation. The urethra passes through the canter of the prostate gland like the hole of a doughnut. Sometimes this passage can widen, other times it can shrink after radiation. In summary, the prostate gland is heavily damaged from radiation and does not work normally afterwards.
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Why People With Cancer Receive Radiation Therapy
Radiation therapy is used to treat cancer and ease cancer symptoms.
When used to treat cancer, radiation therapy can cure cancer, prevent it from returning, or stop or slow its growth.
When treatments are used to ease symptoms, they are known as palliative treatments. External beam radiation may shrink tumors to treat pain and other problems caused by the tumor, such as trouble breathing or loss of bowel and bladder control. Pain from cancer that has spread to the bone can be treated with systemic radiation therapy drugs called radiopharmaceuticals.
Are There Side Effects Of The Combination Approach
There is a slightly higher chance that patients who receive the combined therapy will have rectal irritation or urinary side effects, both of which are common with any radiation treatment given to the prostate. But at MSK, we routinely use sophisticated planning techniques that help us reduce the dose given to normal tissues such as the rectum, bladder, and urethra, lessening the chances of side effects and complications.
In addition, at MSK, we routinely use a rectal spacer gel, which we inject between the prostate and the rectum while the patient is under mild anesthesia, to create a buffer between these two tissues. By creating this space, we can further reduce the dose of radiation that the rectum is exposed to. This leads to fewer side effects for the patient. The rectal spacer gel is biodegradable and after a few months dissolves on its own within the body, causing no harm or long-term effects.
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How Is Hormone Therapy Used To Treat Hormone
Hormone therapy may be used in several ways to treat hormone-sensitive prostate cancer, including:
Early-stage prostate cancer with an intermediate or high risk of recurrence. Men with early-stage prostate cancer that has an intermediate or high risk of recurrence often receive hormone therapy before, during, and/or after radiation therapy, or after prostatectomy . Factors that are used to determine the risk of prostate cancer recurrence include the grade of the tumor , the extent to which the tumor has spread into surrounding tissue, and whether tumor cells are found in nearby lymph nodes during surgery.
The use of hormone therapy before prostatectomy has not been shown to be of benefit and is not a standard treatment. More intensive androgen blockade prior to prostatectomy is being studied in clinical trials.
Relapsed/recurrent prostate cancer. Hormone therapy used alone is the standard treatment for men who have a prostate cancer recurrence as documented by CT, MRI, or bone scan after treatment with radiation therapy or prostatectomy.
Hormone therapy is sometimes recommended for men who have a “biochemical” recurrencea rise in prostate-specific antigen level following primary local treatment with surgery or radiationespecially if the PSA level doubles in fewer than 3 months.
What Are The Different Types Of External Beam Radiation Therapy
Many of the techniques noted below use technology to direct the treatment to target the cancer. Each type of external beam radiation starts with a CT scan to map your body and custom tailor the radiation to your specific anatomy. Special computers are then used to plan radiation treatment to deliver an adequate dose to the prostate while sparing nearby organs, such as the rectum and bladder, as much as possible.
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Signs Of Prostate Cancer Include A Weak Flow Of Urine Or Frequent Urination
- Weak or interrupted flow of urine.
- Sudden urge to urinate.
- Frequent urination .
- Trouble starting the flow of urine.
- Trouble emptying the bladder completely.
- Pain or burning while urinating.
- Blood in the urine or semen.
- A pain in the back, hips, orpelvis that doesn’t go away.
- Shortness of breath, feeling very tired, fast heartbeat, dizziness, or pale skin caused by anemia.
Other conditions may cause the same symptoms. As men age, the prostate may get bigger and block the urethra or bladder. This may cause trouble urinating or sexual problems. The condition is called benign prostatic hyperplasia , and although it is not cancer, surgery may be needed. The symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia or of other problems in the prostate may be like symptoms of prostate cancer.
How Does Radiation Therapy Cure Prostate Cancer
Radiation is high energy x-rays. When you are depositing energy into a target with the latest technology, youre able to kill off a tumor and youre able to preferentially address a given region and to spare the adjacent tissues around that region. There are different types of radiation, but therapeutic radiation is high dose energy that gets delivered to ablate and kill off tumors.
The mechanism is that its damaging the DNA of a cancer cell. So when cancer cells try to divide, they die off after having radiation. Radiation works by killing off the cancer cells through damaging their DNA.
When cancer cells try to divide, which is all that cancer cells do, they essentially die off.
A common thought around cancer cells is that cancer cells divide and continue to divide because the DNA within them is different.
We have cancer cells throughout our lifetime and our body has a pre-programed way of killing off abnormal cells. The cancer cell is the cell that got away. The body did not realize it was abnormal and that particular cell continued to divide and continued to divide. So the normal process of the body saying, This cells not behaving the way it should, fell through the cracks.
Its not possible for the cancer cell to heal itself with the doses were giving.
The tolerance of the rectum is different than the tolerance of the bladder. The tolerance of nerves is different than the tolerance of brain tissue.
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What Types Of Radiotherapy Are There
There are two common types of external beam radiotherapy:
- intensity-modulated radiotherapy
- 3-dimensional conformal radiotherapy .
You may also hear about image guided radiotherapy . This is part of all radiotherapy treatments. Taking images of the prostate before each treatment allows your radiographer to make small changes to the area that is going to be treated, in case the prostate has moved slightly since your last treatment session. This makes sure the surrounding healthy tissue gets as little radiation as possible. It also makes sure the whole prostate is treated.
This is the most common type of external beam radiotherapy in the UK. A computer uses the scans from your radiotherapy planning session to map the location, size and shape of your prostate. The radiotherapy machine gives beams of radiation that match the shape of the prostate as closely as possible. This helps to avoid damaging the healthy tissue around it, reducing the risk of side effects.
The strength of the radiation can be controlled so that different areas get a different dose. This means a higher dose of radiation can be given to the prostate without causing too much damage to surrounding tissue.
3D conformal radiotherapy
As with IMRT, the radiation beams are mapped to the size, shape and position of the prostate. But the strength of the radiation cant be controlled in 3D-CRT, so all areas are treated with the same dose.
Other types of radiotherapy
Proton beam therapy
What Should Patients Know About Msks Approach To Treating Prostate Cancer
At MSK, we manage prostate cancer in a very comprehensive way, tailored to each patients disease and to the individual person. There is no one specific therapy that is best for everyone.
Our initial assessment includes a carefully evaluated biopsy and a very detailed MRI to show the location of the disease, the integrity or soundness of the capsule surrounding the prostate, and the amount of disease. Then, based on that information and with input from the urologist, the radiation oncologist, and the medical oncologist we can provide a comprehensive recommendation.
The radiotherapy we do here at MSK is state-of-the-art and unparalleled. We are the only center in the world to do MRI-based treatment planning. When we give brachytherapy, we use computer software that provides us with real-time information about the quality and accuracy of the seed implant during the procedure. This allows us to make adjustments while the patient is still under anesthesia, so that when the procedure is completed, we have been able to achieve ideal placement of the radiation seeds. This translates into improved outcomes.
For more advanced disease, we have ongoing studies in which we combine novel hormonal therapy agents with radiation to achieve better results. Even the way we follow our patients after treatment is unique, with carefully sequenced MRI checks that give us opportunities to monitor patients extremely closely.
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Remission And The Chance Of Recurrence
A remission is when cancer cannot be detected in the body and there are no symptoms. This may also be called having no evidence of disease or NED.
A remission can be temporary or permanent. This uncertainty causes many people to worry that the cancer will come back. Although there are treatments to help prevent a recurrence, such as hormonal therapy and radiation therapy, it is important to talk with your doctor about the possibility of the cancer returning. There are tools your doctor can use, called nomograms, to estimate someone’s risk of recurrence. Understanding your risk of recurrence and the treatment options may help you feel more prepared if the cancer does return. Learn more about coping with the fear of recurrence.
In general, following surgery or radiation therapy, the PSA level in the blood usually drops. If the PSA level starts to rise again, it may be a sign that the cancer has come back. If the cancer returns after the original treatment, it is called recurrent cancer.
When this occurs, a new cycle of testing will begin again to learn as much as possible about the recurrence, including where the recurrence is located. The cancer may come back in the prostate , in the tissues or lymph nodes near the prostate , or in another part of the body, such as the bones, lungs, or liver . Sometimes the doctor cannot find a tumor even though the PSA level has increased. This is known as a PSA-only or biochemical recurrence.
Treatment By Stage Of Prostate Cancer
Different treatments may be recommended for each stage of prostate cancer. Your doctor will recommend a specific treatment plan for you based on the cancers stage and other factors. Detailed descriptions of each type of treatment are provided earlier on this same page. Clinical trials may also be a treatment option for each stage.
Early-stage prostate cancer
Early-stage prostate cancer usually grows very slowly and may take years to cause any symptoms or other health problems, if it ever does at all. As a result, active surveillance or watchful waiting may be recommended. Radiation therapy or surgery may also be suggested, as well as treatment in clinical trials. For those with a higher Gleason score, the cancer may be faster growing, so radical prostatectomy and radiation therapy are often recommended. Your doctor will consider your age and general health before recommending a treatment plan.
ASCO, the American Urological Association, American Society of Radiation Oncology, and the Society of Urologic Oncology recommend that patients with high-risk early-stage prostate cancer that has not spread to other areas of the body should receive radical prostatectomy or radiation therapy with hormonal therapy as standard treatment options.
Locally advanced prostate cancer
Watchful waiting may be considered for older adults who are not expected to live for a long time and whose cancer is not causing symptoms or for those who have another, more serious illness.
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