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Treating Prostate Cancer With Radiation

Cancer That Is Thought To Still Be In Or Around The Prostate

Radiation therapy for prostate cancer: What to expect

If the cancer is still thought to be just in the area of the prostate, a second attempt to cure it might be possible.

After surgery: If youve had a radical prostatectomy, radiation therapy might be an option, sometimes along with hormone therapy.

After radiation therapy: If your first treatment was radiation, treatment options might include cryotherapy or radical prostatectomy, but when these treatments are done after radiation, they carry a higher risk for side effects such as incontinence. Having radiation therapy again is usually not an option because of the increased potential for serious side effects, although in some cases brachytherapy may be an option as a second treatment after external radiation.

Sometimes it might not be clear exactly where the remaining cancer is in the body. If the only sign of cancer recurrence is a rising PSA level , another option for some men might be active surveillance instead of active treatment. Prostate cancer often grows slowly, so even if it does come back, it might not cause problems for many years, at which time further treatment could then be considered.

Factors such as how quickly the PSA is going up and the original Gleason score of the cancer can help predict how soon the cancer might show up in distant parts of the body and cause problems. If the PSA is going up very quickly, some doctors might recommend that you start treatment even before the cancer can be seen on tests or causes symptoms.

Low Dose Rate Brachytherapy Implants

The most common form of brachytherapy for prostate cancer, LDR involves surgically placing small radioactive pellets, about the size of a grain of rice, within the prostate. Once put in place, they remain there for life, but the radiation weakens over weeks or months, until it almost completely goes away.

Treating Prostate Cancer That Doesnt Go Away Or Comes Back After Treatment

If your prostate-specific antigen blood level or another test shows that your prostate cancer has not been cured or has come back after the initial treatment, further treatment can often still be helpful. Follow-up treatment will depend on where the cancer is thought to be and what treatment you’ve already had. Imaging tests such as CT, MRI, or bone scans may be done to get a better idea about where the cancer is.

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How Prostate Cancer Is Treated

In cancer care, different types of doctorsincluding medical oncologists, surgeons, and radiation oncologistsoften work together to create an overall treatment plan that may combine different types of treatments to treat the cancer. This is called a multidisciplinary team. Cancer care teams include a variety of other health care professionals, such as palliative care experts, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, oncology nurses, social workers, pharmacists, counselors, dietitians, physical therapists, and others.

The common types of treatments used for prostate cancer are described below. Your care plan may also include treatment for symptoms and side effects, an important part of cancer care.

Treatment options and recommendations depend on several factors, including the type and stage of cancer, possible side effects, and the patients preferences and overall health.

Cancer treatment can affect older adults in different ways. More information on the specific effects of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy on older patients can be found another section of this website.

Because most prostate cancers are found in the early stages when they are growing slowly, you usually do not have to rush to make treatment decisions. During this time, it is important to talk with your doctor about the risks and benefits of all your treatment options and when treatment should begin. This discussion should also address the current state of the cancer:

Brachytherapy For Prostate Cancer

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Prostate brachytherapy is a type of internal radiation therapy in which seeds, ribbons, or capsules that contain a radiation source are placed in the prostate gland. It can be used as a stand alone treatment or in combination with external beam radiation therapy.

Most brachytherapy is put in place through a catheter, which is a small, stretchy tube. Sometimes, brachytherapy is put in place through a larger device called an applicator. Your oncologist will place the catheter or applicator into your body before you begin treatment.

Once the catheter or applicator is in place, the radiation source is placed inside it. The dose intensity and how long the radiation source stays in place depends on whether its high-dose or low-dose brachytherapy

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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 eat well, you have the energy to do the activities you want to do, and your body is able to heal and fight infection. Most importantly, good nutrition can give you a sense of well-being.

Since eating when you don’t feel well can be hard, let your treatment team know if youâre having trouble. You could also consider working with a dietitian. They can help make sure that youâre getting enough nutrition during your radiation therapy.

These tips might help while youâre going through treatment:

Try new foods. Things that you havenât liked in the past may taste better to you during treatment.

Power up with plant-based foods. They can be healthy and tasty substitutes for meat. So for instance, swap out a burger or chicken for beans and peas at a few meals each week.

Eat a rainbow of fruit and vegetables. Get your fill of these healthy powerhouses every day. Good options include spinach, raspberries, yellow peppers, carrots, and cauliflower.

Limit or avoid unhealthy choices. That includes red or processed meats, sugary foods and drinks, and processed foods.

Aim to stay at a healthy weight during treatment. You can ask your doctor what your ideal range on the scale should be. Itâs normal to have small weight changes while you go through treatment.

Try to stay physically active. If youâre not active now, you can ask your doctor how to move more and exercise safely.

Prices And Where To Get It

The cost of a radical prostatectomy varies depending on insurance status and location of surgery.

Costs may include hospital fees, anesthesia fees, and surgeon fees. The average cost of hospital fees for prostatectomy in the United States is about $34,000. Anesthesiologist and surgeon fees average about $8,000. What out-of-pocket expenses the person being treated incurs will depend on their insurance.

The location of the procedure can be with a local surgeon, or the person being treated may travel to see a regional or national expert.

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Which Treatment Should I Have

Your doctor will recommend a treatment based on the location of your cancer and which treatment you had before.

When the cancer is only in your prostate:

  • If you had surgery before: You can now have radiation therapy, sometimes combined with hormone therapy. Or you might get hormone therapy on its own.
  • If you had radiation therapy before: Your options include cryotherapy and surgery. Doctors don’t recommend getting radiation a second time because it can cause severe side effects. Brachytherapy may still be an option if you had external beam radiation the last time.

If cancer has spread to other parts of your body:

  • Hormone therapy is often the treatment for recurrent prostate cancer that is advanced. You may get chemotherapy, too.

If Treatment Does Not Work

What to Expect Before Starting Radiation Treatment for Prostate Cancer

Recovery from cancer is not always possible. If the cancer cannot be cured or controlled, the disease may be called advanced or terminal.

This diagnosis is stressful, and for some people, advanced cancer may be difficult to discuss. However, it is important to have open and honest conversations with your health care team to express your feelings, preferences, and concerns. The health care team has special skills, experience, and knowledge to support patients and their families and is there to help. Making sure a person is physically comfortable, free from pain, and emotionally supported is extremely important.

People who have advanced cancer and who are expected to live less than 6 months may want to consider hospice care. Hospice care is designed to provide the best possible quality of life for people who are near the end of life. You and your family are encouraged to talk with the health care team about hospice care options, which include hospice care at home, a special hospice center, or other health care locations. Nursing care and special equipment, including a hospital bed, can make staying at home a workable option for many families. Learn more about advanced cancer care planning.

After the death of a loved one, many people need support to help them cope with the loss. Learn more about grief and loss.

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What Is External Beam Radiation Therapy For Prostate Cancer

External beam radiation therapy treats prostate cancer with X-ray beams from a machine. The treatment is painless and only lasts for a few minutes at a time.

Siteman radiation oncologists were among the first in the U.S. to deliver external beam radiation using Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy . This technique enhances the delivery of high doses of radiation. In addition, they also use advanced-imaging methods such as MRI and PET scans a technique known as Image-Guided Radiation Therapy to focus treatment on the prostate, thereby reducing radiation delivery to the adjacent bladder and rectum.

Patients who develop a recurrence of their cancers after prior radical prostate surgery can be effectively treated with radiation therapy. If the prostate has been removed, radiation is delivered to the space where the prostate used to be.

Brachytherapy is radiation therapy that comes from a source implanted within the body. There are two different types: low-dose-rate brachytherapy and high-dose-rate brachytherapy.

Physical Emotional And Social Effects Of Cancer

Cancer and its treatment cause physical symptoms and side effects, as well as emotional, social, and financial effects. Managing all of these effects is called palliative care or supportive care. It is an important part of your care that is included along with treatments intended to slow, stop, or eliminate the cancer.

Palliative care focuses on improving how you feel during treatment by managing symptoms and supporting patients and their families with other, non-medical needs. Any person, regardless of age or type and stage of cancer, may receive this type of care. And it often works best when it is started right after a cancer diagnosis. People who receive palliative care along with treatment for the cancer often have less severe symptoms, better quality of life, and report that they are more satisfied with treatment.

Palliative treatments vary widely and often include medication, nutritional changes, relaxation techniques, emotional and spiritual support, and other therapies. You may also receive palliative treatments similar to those meant to get rid of the cancer, such as chemotherapy, surgery, or radiation therapy.

Learn more about the importance of tracking side effects in another part of this guide. Learn more about palliative care in a separate section of this website.

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Online Support Groups For Prostate Cancer

  • Us TOO. This organization has more than 200 support groups in the United States and abroad.
  • Prostate Cancer Research Institute. This website allows you to search for support groups by state.
  • Cancer Care. This site offers 15-week online support groups for people diagnosed with prostate cancer. Co-sponsored by the National Alliance of State Prostate Cancer Coalitions.
  • Male Care. This organization offers online support groups for people with prostate cancer and their partners or caregivers.
  • Imerman Angels. This support community offers one-on-one support with a mentor.

An Inclusive Clinical Trial

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The team designed the phase 3 trial to be as inclusive as possible to capture a population that looks like people commonly treated in the community, Dr. Buyyounouski explained. The participants included both people getting radiation immediately after surgery and those who waited until they had rising PSA levels.

Participants who had some invasion of their cancer into nearby tissue were eligible, although those whose cancer had spread to their lymph nodes were excluded. They could also receive up to 6 months of androgen deprivation therapy, a type of hormone therapy, if recommended by their doctor.

Participants were randomly assigned to treatment with HYPORT, consisting of a higher dose of radiation every weekday for 5 weeks or the commonly used, lower dose every weekday for 7 weeks. They were asked about urinary and bowel symptoms before radiation and 6, 12, and 24 months after treatment, using the Expanded Prostate Cancer Index Composite questionnaire.

After prostate cancer treatments, common urinary symptoms can include urine leakage or pain or burning when urinating. Common bowel symptoms can include bowel leakage or urgency. The trial did not measure sexual side effects, such as erectile dysfunction, since these can also be affected by hormone therapy.

About three-quarters of the participants completed all questionnaires. At the end of treatment, people who received HYPORT reported more bowel side effects, although urinary side effects were equivalent between groups.

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Possible Risks And Side Effects Of Brachytherapy

Radiation precautions: If you get permanent brachytherapy, the seeds will give off small amounts of radiation for several weeks or months. Even though the radiation doesnt travel far, your doctor may advise you to stay away from pregnant women and small children during this time. If you plan on traveling, you might want to get a doctors note regarding your treatment, as low levels of radiation can sometimes be picked up by detection systems at airports.

There’s also a small risk that some of the seeds might move . You may be asked to strain your urine for the first week or so to catch any seeds that might come out. You may be asked to take other precautions as well, such as wearing a condom during sex. Be sure to follow any instructions your doctor gives you. There have also been reports of the seeds moving through the bloodstream to other parts of the body, such as the lungs. As far as doctors can tell, this is uncommon and doesnt seem to cause any ill effects.

These precautions arent needed after HDR brachytherapy, because the radiation doesnt stay in the body after treatment.

Bowel problems: Brachytherapy can sometimes irritate the rectum and cause a condition called radiation proctitis. Bowel problems such as rectal pain, burning, and/or diarrhea can occur, but serious long-term problems are uncommon.

What Does External Beam Radiotherapy Involve

You will have your treatment at a hospital radiotherapy department. Youll see a specialist doctor who treats cancer with radiotherapy, known as a clinical oncologist. You may also see a specialist nurse and a specialist radiographer. Theyll talk to you about your treatment plan and ways to manage any side effects.

Before your radiotherapy treatment

Radiotherapy planning session

A week or two before your treatment, youll have a planning session. This is to make sure the radiographers know the exact position, size and shape of your prostate. It will help them make sure the radiotherapy is aimed at your prostate and that the surrounding areas get as little radiation as possible.

During your radiotherapy treatment

You will have one treatment at the hospital five days a week, with a rest over the weekend. You can go home after each treatment.

If you have localised prostate cancer, the course of radiotherapy usually involves 20 treatment sessions over four weeks. You might hear this called hypo-fractionated radiotherapy.

At some hospitals, youll have 37 sessions over seven or eight weeks instead. If you have 37 sessions, youll receive a slightly larger overall dose of radiotherapy but the dose you receive at each session will be lower than if you have 20 sessions.

Its safe for you to be around other people, including children and pregnant women, during your course of radiotherapy. The radiation doesnt stay in your body so you wont give off any radiation.

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Radiation Therapy: Effective For Prostate Cancer

Research published in the Journal of Medical Imaging and Radiation Oncology in 2015 shows that external-beam radiation therapy is a highly effective treatment option for prostate cancer.

Men with localised prostate cancer who are treated with external-beam radiation therapy have a cure rate of 95.5% for intermediate-risk prostate cancer and 91.3% for high-risk prostate cancer.

The 5-year survival rate using this treatment is 98.8% overall.

When compared to other common treatment options such as surgery or brachytherapy, external-beam was as effective and in some cases more effective.

A/Prof Tom Shakespeare, Radiation Oncologist at the North Coast Cancer Institute, led the eight year study comparing the effectiveness of external-beam radiation therapy with other common treatment options such as surgery or brachytherapy.

The main outcome that we have seen from this study is that external-beam radiation therapy is one of the most effective treatment options for prostate cancer, he said.

These are great results showing that radiation therapy is as effective, or even better, than other common treatment options such as surgery or brachytherapy.

In fact, based on the literature reviewed, it appears that external-beam radiation therapy is a superior treatment in some cases.

When patients are treated with modern external-beam radiation therapy, the overall cure rate was 93.3% with a metastasis-free survival rate at 5 years of 96.9%.

Unfortunately, this does not always happen.

Brachytherapy Or Internal Radiation Therapy

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Internal radiation therapy , also known as brachytherapy, involves placing radioactive seeds on the prostate gland inside the body. The seeds are around the size of a grain of rice.

The implant may be temporary or permanent:

  • Temporary: The doctor inserts the seeds into a small tube and leaves them there for between 5-15 minutes . A person may need 1-4 sessions, typically over the course of 2 days.
  • Permanent: The doctor will place around 1000 radioactive seeds that release radiation for several weeks to months. Often, they leave the seeds in place when not active since they likely will not cause discomfort.

Before inserting the seeds, the doctor will give the patient either a general or local anesthetic. They may use imaging technology to help ensure they position the seeds accurately.

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