What Is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy And What Advantages Does It Offer
Traditionally, we deliver external beam radiation in 45 to 48 sessions over a span of ten weeks, using very sophisticated computer-based planning and enhanced imaging techniques and tumor tracking during the treatment. This is called image-guided IMRT and it is the current standard of care.
But there is increasing interest in giving this radiation in shorter courses of treatment. Many of the people we care for have a type of radiation therapy called MSK PreciseTM. MSK Precise is a form of SBRT that can be given in five sessions instead of the usual 45 to 50. MSK has been doing this for the past nine years, and the results in the several hundred people whove been treated have been excellent so far. The treatment is very well tolerated, with outcomes that are at least equivalent to and possibly better than the standard ten weeks of treatment. Because of its superior precision, MSK Precise has less side effects than more conventional radiation techniques, with extremely low rates of incontinence and rectal problems. The sexual side effects are low and similar to what is experienced with conventional external radiation techniques. And of course, its much more convenient for patients.
For patients with more-advanced tumors, we are completing a phase II trial in which were combining sophisticated brachytherapy approaches with MSK Precise. This kind of combination of dose-intense or escalated radiation may end up being a very effective regimen.
What Kinds Of Medicines Can Be Used To Lower My Testosterone
There are several types of medicines you can take to lower the amount of testosterone in your body. These are temporary ways to lower the amount of testosterone. When you stop taking these medicines, your testosterone level will begin to go up.
LHRH is a normal human hormone that tells your body to make testosterone. An LHRH agonist is a man-made hormone similar to the one made naturally in your body. LHRH agonists work like a light switch to shut off the production of testosterone in your body. When you are given this medicine, your body will stop making the LHRH hormone and your testicles will stop making testosterone. When you are first given this medicine, your body will continue to make testosterone for a couple of weeks. This means that your testosterone level may go up for a week or two and then begin to drop. This type of medicine works as well as having an orchiectomy . These medicines are given either monthly or every three months in a shot . The medicine may also be placed as small implants under your skin. The implant gives you a steady dose of medicine. Depending on the type of implant the medicine may last from one to 12 months.
Anti-androgens act like a brick wall. They block the small amount of testosterone made in your adrenal glands from reaching your prostate cancer cells. This keeps your prostate cancer cells from growing. These medicines are pills that are taken orally one to three times a day.
Side Effects Of Radiation For Prostate Cancer
The primary potential side effects of radiation treatment for prostate cancer include bowel problems, urinary problems and sexual function issues.
According to patient-reported outcomes measuring quality of life from men who participated in the 10-year, randomized Prostate Testing for Cancer and Treatment trial, men who were treated with radiation reported little increase in urinary leakage after radiation therapy. They also reported less sexual dysfunction when compared to men who were treated with surgery. However, men treated with radiation reported a higher incidence of bowel problems, such as loose and bloody stools. These side effects are often short-term for most patients, but some experience long-term side effects.
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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 someoneâs 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.
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What Types Of Hormone Therapy Are Used For Prostate Cancer
- reducing androgen production by the testicles
- blocking the action of androgens throughout the body
- block androgen production throughout the body
Treatments that reduce androgen production by the testicles are the most commonly used hormone therapies for prostate cancer and the first type of hormone therapy that most men with prostate cancer receive. This form of hormone therapy includes:
Treatments that block the action of androgens in the body are typically used when ADT stops working. Such treatments include:
Treatments that block the production of androgens throughout the body include:
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Proton Beam Radiation Therapy
Proton beam therapy focuses beams of protons instead of x-rays on the cancer. Unlike x-rays, which release energy both before and after they hit their target, protons cause little damage to tissues they pass through and release their energy only after traveling a certain distance. This means that proton beam radiation can, in theory, deliver more radiation to the prostate while doing less damage to nearby normal tissues. Proton beam radiation can be aimed with techniques similar to 3D-CRT and IMRT.
Although in theory proton beam therapy might be more effective than using x-rays, so far studies have not shown if this is true. Right now, proton beam therapy is not widely available. The machines needed to make protons are very expensive, and they arent available in many centers in the United States. Proton beam radiation might not be covered by all insurance companies at this time.
What Happens During Radiation Therapy Treatment
What happens during your radiation therapy treatment depends on the kind of radiation therapy you receive.
External-beam radiation therapy
External-beam radiation therapy delivers radiation from a machine outside the body. It is the most common radiation therapy treatment for cancer.
Each session is quick, lasting about 15 minutes. Radiation does not hurt, sting, or burn when it enters the body. You will hear clicking or buzzing throughout the treatment and there may be a smell from the machine. Typically, people have treatment sessions 5 times per week, Monday through Friday. This schedule usually continues for 3 to 9 weeks, depending on your personal treatment plan.
This type of radiation therapy targets only the tumor. But it will affect some healthy tissue surrounding the tumor. While most people feel no pain when each treatment is being delivered, effects of treatment slowly build up over time and may include discomfort, skin changes, or other side effects, depending on where in the body treatment is being delivered. The 2-day break in treatment each week allows your body some time to repair this damage. Some of the effects may not go away until the treatment period is completed. Let the health care professionals if you are experiencing side effects. Read more about the side effects of radiation therapy.
Internal radiation therapy
The permanent implant loses it radioactivity
The temporary implant is removed
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What Happens After Radiotherapy
After you finish your radiotherapy, you will have regular appointments to check how well your treatment is working and monitor any side effects. Your doctor or nurse will let you know how often youll have appointments.
You will have regular blood tests to measure your level of PSA . Your doctor will also ask you about any side effects from your treatment and any symptoms you might have.
If youve had external beam radiotherapy to treat bone pain, you may find the pain gets worse during treatment and for a few days afterwards this is called a pain flare. Your doctor might prescribe some pain-relieving drugs to help with the pain, or increase the dose that you already take.
You should notice that the pain gradually improves, though it might take a few weeks for the treatment to be most effective. The pain relief usually lasts for several months and you may be able to reduce the dose of any pain-relieving drugs you are taking. But speak to your hospital team or GP first you shouldnt reduce the dose suddenly. If your pain or other symptoms dont improve, talk to your doctor, radiographer or nurse.
If your pain comes back, they might suggest another course of radiotherapy. If youve already had external beam radiotherapy to one area, you may be able to have it again to the same area. This will depend on the dose youve already had. If you have bone pain in more than one new area, you might be able to have more external beam radiotherapy or a course of radium-223.
Radiation Therapy For Prostate Cancer
Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays or particles to kill cancer cells. Depending on the stage of the prostate cancer and other factors, radiation therapy might be used:
- As the first treatment for cancer that is still just in the prostate gland and is low grade. Cure rates for men with these types of cancers are about the same as those for men treated with radical prostatectomy.
- As part of the first treatment for cancers that have grown outside the prostate gland and into nearby tissues.
- If the cancer is not removed completely or comes back in the area of the prostate after surgery.
- If the cancer is advanced, to help keep the cancer under control for as long as possible and to help prevent or relieve symptoms.
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How We Approach Prostate Cancer Treatment At Ctca
When you come to CTCA for a diagnostic consultation or second opinion, your case is reviewed by a multidisciplinary team of genitourinary cancer experts before you arrive for your first appointment. This team may include a medical oncologist, a urologist or urologic oncologist and a radiation oncologist.
If we determine you need additional diagnostic evaluations, such as imaging or genomic testing, we schedule those procedures for you before your arrival.
Together, we develop a treatment plan thats based on your unique needsusually within two to three days. Our goal is to give you and your caregivers a clear understanding of your options to empower you to make an informed decision about your care.
At CTCA, we strive to treat our patients as we would want our own loved ones to be treated: with compassion, dignity and respect. Its the basis of our foundation, and we call it the Mother Standard® of care.
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
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What To Expect During Hormone Therapy
As you go through hormone deprivation therapy, youâll have follow-up visits with your cancer doctor. Theyâll ask about side effects and check your PSA levels.
Doctors donât know how long hormone therapy works to keep prostate cancer in check. So, while you take it, your doctor will regularly draw blood to check your PSA levels. Undetectable or low PSA levels usually mean that the treatment is working. If your PSA levels go up, itâs a sign that the cancer has started growing again. If this happens, your cancer is considered castrate-resistant, and hormone deprivation therapy is no longer an effective treatment.
To lessen the side effects of hormone therapy drugs, researchers suggest that you take them for just a set amount of time or until your PSA drops to a low level. If the cancer comes back or gets worse, you may need to start treatment again.
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What Happens During Radiation Therapy
Radiation therapy uses high-energy x-rays or a stream of particles . High doses of radiation can destroy abnormal cancer cells. Each treatment destroys some of the cancer cells at a microscopic level. Patients do not feel the radiation during treatment. They will only hear some electrical noise and may see light from the machine.
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How Long Does Radiation Therapy For Prostate Cancer Take
The length of prostate cancer varies depending on a number of factors, such as the type, stage and location of the cancer. And while some people may be treated with only one therapy session, most of the time patients are subjected to a series of regular treatments that may run anywhere between one and eight weeks.
The treatment is usually administered once in a day, five days of a week, with each session only taking a few minutes. But then again, this may vary depending on the intensity of the spread, the type and stage of the cancer, as well as the type of radiation therapy being administered.
Good Prostate Cancer Care
Your MDT will be able to recommend what they feel are the best treatment options, but ultimately the decision is yours.
You should be able to talk with a named specialist nurse about treatment options and possible side effects to help you make a decision.
You should also be told about any clinical trials you may be eligible for.
If you have side effects from treatment, you should be referred to specialist services to help stop or ease these side effects.
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Side Effects Of Radiation Therapy
Compared to earlier radiation methods, these modern techniques reduce the chance of urinary and bowel problems.
With several treatment options available, your doctor will work with you to develop and oversee a treatment plan that precisely addresses your prostate cancer while minimizing the risk to surrounding tissues.
This is why it is important to choose an experienced radiation oncologist who specializes in the management of prostate cancer. High volume centers where practitioners have significant experience and treat large numbers of patients with prostate cancer may be associated with good outcomes and fewer lasting problems related to treatment. The majority of patients who undergo radiation do not have permanent effects on bowel or urinary function, and patients who develop erectile difficulty after these therapies can often be treated successfully with medications such as sildenafil or tadalafil.
What Are The Side Effects Of External Beam Radiotherapy
Like all treatments for prostate cancer, radiotherapy can cause side effects. These will affect each man differently, and you might not get all the possible side effects. Sometimes bowel, urinary and sexual problems after radiotherapy treatment are called pelvic radiation disease.
Side effects happen when the healthy tissue near the prostate is damaged by radiotherapy. Most healthy cells recover so side effects may only last a few weeks or months. But some side effects can start months or years after treatment. These can sometimes become long-term problems. Before you start treatment, talk to your doctor, nurse or radiographer about the side effects. Knowing what to expect can help you deal with them.
If you have hormone therapy as well as radiotherapy, you may also get side effects from the hormone therapy. Read more about the side effects of hormone therapy and how you can manage them.
If youre having radiotherapy as a second treatment, and you still have side effects from your first treatment, then radiotherapy can make those side effects worse or last longer. It may also cause other side effects. The most common side effects of radiotherapy are described here.
Short-term side effects of radiotherapy
Radiotherapy can irritate the lining of the bladder and the urethra, which is the tube men urinate and ejaculate through. This can cause urinary problems, such as:
Tiredness and fatigue
Problems with ejaculation
Skin irritation and hair loss
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