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Prostate Radiation Treatment Side Effects

Radiotherapy To The Prostate

Radiation Therapy Side Effects for Prostate Cancer Patients

Side effects during/soon after treatment

General Fatigue is quite common in the second half of treatment and is very variable between patients. It may be worse for men on both hormone therapy and radiation therapy. Fatigue can persist for a few weeks after treatment, but as for other early side effects, this has usually settled within 4-6 weeks after radiation therapy is completed.

Local All other side effects of radiation therapy come from the structures/organs in and just next to where the radiation is being targeted. For the prostate this means the bottom of the bladder, the urethra and the front part of the rectum . These can commonly cause the following side effects, which usually have fully settled by 4- 6 weeks after treatment is finished.

Bladder/urethra in weeks 3-4 of treatment it is common to start to get some or all of the following: increased frequency of urine, especially at night stinging or burning while passing urine a sense of not fully emptying the bladder a poorer stream than before. These symptoms are usually mild to moderate but can be worse if there were significant urinary problems before treatment.

Rectum Bowel motions may become more frequent in the second half of treatment or there may be a need to go more frequently or urgently to open the bowels. There may be some more mucous discharge, excess wind and/or discomfort on opening bowels. Diarrhoea is very uncommon.

What can help reduce side effects?

Side effects well after treatment

Who Can I Contact If I Have Personal Concerns About My Treatment

Many hospitals and clinics have a staff social worker who can help you during your treatment. Check with your doctor to see if this is available to you.

The social worker can discuss any emotional issues or other concerns about your treatment or your personal situation and provide information about resources. The social worker can also discuss housing or transportation needs if necessary.

People dealing with certain medical issues find it helpful to share experiences with others in the same situation. Your doctor can provide a list of support groups if you are interested. Your social worker can provide additional information, and you can look online for support group resources.

How Does External Beam Radiation Therapy Work

External beam radiation therapy, or EBRT, uses a machine to direct high-energy X-rays at the cancer in daily doses. The radiation beam is generated by a machine called a linear accelerator or LINAC. Using treatment planning computers and software, your treatment team controls the size and shape of the beam as well as how it is directed at your body to most effectively treat your tumor and minimize damage to surrounding normal tissue.

To minimize side effects, the treatments are typically given five days a week over a six-to-nine week period. The break in days allows the doctors to get enough radiation into the body to kill the cancer while giving healthy cells time to recover.

Watch our expert medical oncologist, Dr. Alicia Morgans from Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, discuss external beam radiation therapy:

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What Is A Radiation Oncologist

If a patient is undergoing radiation, the cancer treatment plan may be managed by a radiation oncologist who carefully monitors the persons overall health and well-being through the process.

With advanced cancer, a patient may also be referred to a medical oncologist. This specialized doctor uses medicines such as chemotherapy and hormone therapy to treat cancers. Its common for several medical specialists to work together on a treatment plantheyre known as a cancer care team.

Are There Side Effects Of The Combination Approach

Prostate Cancer Side Effects

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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Who Should Consider External Beam Radiation Therapy

In most cases, external beam radiation therapy is used for men with localized prostate cancer . The intent of EBRT in this case is to kill the tumor while sparing as much healthy tissue as possible. Sometimes it is used in more advanced cases. For example, it can be used along with hormone therapy, or used to relieve pain from bone metastases.

What Are The Advantages And Disadvantages Of External Beam Radiotherapy

What may be important for one person might not be so important for someone else. If youre offered external beam radiotherapy, speak to your doctor, nurse or radiographer before deciding whether to have it. They can tell you about any other treatment options and help you decide if radiotherapy is right for you.

Advantages of external beam radiotherapy

  • If your cancer is localised or locally advanced, radiotherapy will aim to get rid of the cancer completely.
  • Many men can carry on with many of their normal activities while having treatment, including going to work and driving.
  • Radiotherapy can be an option even if youre not fit or well enough for surgery.
  • Radiotherapy is painless .
  • The treatment itself only lasts around 10 minutes, including the time it takes to get you into position. But youll probably need to be at the hospital for up to an hour each day to prepare for your treatment. You dont need to stay in hospital overnight.

Disadvantages of external beam radiotherapy

I was able to continue working throughout my treatment, although I got tired quickly. I had some side effects but nothing I couldnt cope with. A personal experience

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Ideas For Future Studies Of Proton Therapy

Despite the studys limitations, these intriguing findings raise questions that should inform future prospective phase 3 trials, Dr. Buchsbaum said, although there are barriers to large studies of proton therapy.

For instance, it is particularly encouraging that proton therapy appeared to be safer in a group of older and sicker patients who typically experience more side effects, Dr. Baumann noted.

Dr. Buchsbaum agreed that proton therapy may be especially helpful for older and sicker patients, but he noted that ongoing phase 3 trials were not designed to analyze this group of patients.

And because proton therapy may cause fewer side effects, future trials could also explore whether combining proton therapy with chemotherapy might be more tolerable for patients, the authors wrote.

For example, both chemotherapy and traditional radiation for lung cancer can irritate the esophagus, making it painful and difficult for patients to eat. But proton therapy might limit damage to the esophagus, making it easier for a patient to tolerate the combination, Dr. Baumann explained.

Future studies could also explore whether combining proton therapy with higher doses of chemotherapy might increase cures without causing more side effects, he added.

Dr. Buchsbaum agreed, saying that it would be worthwhile to explore this possibility. Just asking the question: Is more effective? might not be giving it a fair opportunity to demonstrate its benefit to society, he said.

How Does Radiotherapy Treatment Work

Side Effects of Radiation Therapy for Prostate Cancer | Prostate Cancer Staging Guide

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:

*All individuals are unique. Your results can and will vary.

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Your Role On Your Radiation Therapy Team

Youll have a team of healthcare providers working together to care for you. Youre part of that team, and your role includes:

  • Getting to your appointments on time.
  • Asking questions and talking about your concerns.
  • Telling someone on your radiation therapy team when you have side effects.
  • Telling someone on your radiation therapy team if youre in pain.
  • Caring for yourself at home by:
  • Quitting smoking, if you smoke. If you want to quit, call our Tobacco Treatment Program at .
  • Caring for your skin as instructed.
  • Drinking liquids as instructed.

The Success Rate Of Prostate Surgery

Survival rates can tell you how many people with the same type and stage of cancer are still alive 5 years after being diagnosed. For example, if you have stage 3 colon cancer, there is a 66% chance that 5 years later, you will be alive. But the rates cannot tell you how long you will live. However, they may help give you an idea of how likely your treatment will be successful.

Survival rates are estimates. They are based on data from many people who have had cancer before. These numbers might be confusing because they dont tell you what will happen, but they can help doctors decide treatments. Talk with your doctor to see if these statistics apply to you because they know about your situation.

A relative survival rate tells how likely a person is to survive a particular type of cancer. I.e., if the 5-year close survival rate for prostate cancer is 90%, it means that men who have this type of cancer are about 90% as likely as other men to live a minimum of 5 years after being diagnosed with the disease.

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Questions To Ask The Health Care Team

  • What physical side effects are likely based on my specific radiation therapy treatment plan? When will they likely begin?

  • How can these side effects be prevented or managed?

  • How can I take care of the affected skin during my treatment period?

  • Who should I tell when a side effect appears or gets worse?

  • Are there specific side effects I should tell the doctor about right away?

  • Who can I talk with if I’m feeling anxious or upset about having this treatment?

  • If I’m having side effects that affect my nutrition, can you recommend an oncology dietitian?

  • What are other ways I can take care of myself during the treatment period?

  • Are there any restrictions on exercising or other physical activity during this treatment?

  • Could this treatment affect my sex life? If so, how and for how long?

  • Could this treatment affect my ability to become pregnant or have a child? If so, should I talk with a fertility specialist before cancer treatment begins?

  • What are the potential long-term effects of this type of radiation therapy?

  • If I’m worried about managing the financial costs of cancer care, who can help me?

  • Will special precautions be needed to protect my family and others from radiation exposure during my treatment period?

  • After radiation therapy is completed, what will my follow-up care plan be?

  • Why is follow-up care important for managing side effects of treatment?

Possible Side Effects Of Ebrt

Side Effects Of Radiation Therapy For Prostate Cancer

Some of the side effects from EBRT are the same as those from surgery, while others are different.

Bowel problems: Radiation can irritate the rectum and cause a condition called radiation proctitis. This can lead to diarrhea, sometimes with blood in the stool, and rectal leakage. Most of these problems go away over time, but in rare cases normal bowel function does not return. To help lessen bowel problems, you may be told to follow a special diet during radiation therapy to help limit bowel movement during treatment. Sometimes a balloon-like device or gel is put between the rectum and the prostate before treatment to act like a spacer to lessen the amount of radiation that reaches the rectum.

Urinary problems: Radiation can irritate the bladder and lead to a condition called radiation cystitis. You might need to urinate more often, have a burning sensation while you urinate, and/or find blood in your urine. Urinary problems usually improve over time, but in some men they never go away.

Some men develop urinary incontinence after treatment, which means they cant control their urine or have leakage or dribbling. As described in the surgery section, there are different levels and types of incontinence. Overall, this side effect occurs less often with radiation therapy than after surgery. The risk is low at first, but it goes up each year for several years after treatment.

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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.

Frequent Urination Burning With Urination And Difficulty Urinating

These are the most common complaints. Occasionally the urinary stream will weaken. Generally these symptoms are managed with medications to help the bladder function better or eliminate burning. Rarely, your doctor may order a urine test. Symptoms will resolve after the end of treatment. Contact your doctor if you see blood in your urine or if you are unable to urinate.

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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.

Radical Prostatectomy vs. Radiation: How to Compare the Results

Making a decision about prostate cancer treatment is not easy. When considering radiation therapy or radical prostatectomy, one of your top concerns is seeking reassurance that your cancer will be cured following treatment.

Radiation Therapy Side Effects

What Are Some Radiation Treatment Side Effects for Prostate Cancer Patients?

Radiation not only kills or slows the growth of cancer cells, it can also affect nearby healthy cells. Damage to healthy cells can cause side effects.

Many people who get radiation therapy have fatigue. Fatigue is feeling exhausted and worn out. It can happen all at once or come on slowly. People feel fatigue in different ways and you may feel more or less fatigue than someone else who is getting the same amount of radiation therapy to the same part of the body.

Other radiation therapy side effects you may have depend on the part of the body that is treated. To see which side effects you might expect, find the part of your body being treated in the following chart. Many of the side effects in the list link to more information in the Side Effects section. Discuss this chart with your doctor or nurse. Ask them about your chances of getting each side effect.

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Treatment Areas And Possible Side Effects

Part of the Body Being TreatedPossible Side Effects

Healthy cells that are damaged during radiation treatment usually recover within a few months after treatment is over. But sometimes people may have side effects that do not improve. Other side effects may show up months or years after radiation therapy is over. These are called late effects. Whether you might have late effects, and what they might be, depends on the part of your body that was treated, other cancer treatments youve had, genetics, and other factors, such as smoking.Ask your doctor or nurse which late effects you should watch for. See the section on Late Effects to learn more.

  • Posted:May 1, 2018

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