Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men, with more than 47,000 cases diagnosed in the UK every year. With a high success rate, radiation therapy is gradually becoming a more popular option.
Radiation treatment for prostate cancer, also known as radiotherapy uses ionizing radiation to kill prostate cancer cells. Normal cells are able to repair radiation damage, whereas cancer cells are not. In this treatment method, ionizing radiation such as gamma and x-rays, work in the treatment to damage the DNA in cancer cells. As Oncologist Phuoc Tran, MD, PHD asserts, “the aim of this method is to deliver a powerful dose of radiation that will kill cancer. It aims to do it as precisely as possible so that we cause minimal damage to the healthy tissue around it”. Radiation treatment also aims to cause minimal damage to the urethra, rectum and bladder.
Who is Radiation Therapy ideal for?
Radiation treatment has been proven to be successful in individuals with early stages of Prostate Cancer. Studies have also shown the method to be more successful in men that are younger than 70. For some patients with a larger tumour, radical prostatectomy is often provided as an alternative. The two different types of therapy are external beam radiation and brachytherapy. External beam radiotherapy directs radiotherapy beams at cancer from a machine. As you would expect, this means high-energy beams of radiation delivered from the outside. Internal radiotherapy, on the other hand, treats the prostate cancer with radiotherapy from inside the prostate gland.
Which type of Radiation Therapy is Suitable for You?
It is important for you to receive the treatment method that is ideal for your individual circumstance. External-beam therapy is used as a curative treatment in men with localized prostate cancer. It is used on men whose cancer has broken through the capsule of the prostate gland. It is often used when cancer has spread into the tissue around the prostate, tubes that carry semen, body organs nearby or lymph nodes close to the prostate gland. For every ten men who have this treatment, between five and eight men get some pain relief from it. Internal radiotherapy, on the other hand, can be helpful if you have pain in more than one area of the prostate. It is suitable for men whose cancer has not spread outside the prostate gland. If you are considering this kind of treatment, cancer must be completely contained within the prostate. It is generally recommended if you have a medium or high risk of your cancer spreading outside the prostate or coming back after treatment. Internal radiotherapy has a higher dose of radiation in a smaller area in comparison to external radiation treatment and can be subdivided into low dose rates and high dose rates. For every ten men who have internal radiotherapy, between six and seven get some pain relief.
If you have intermediate or high-risk prostate cancer, you will have both external beam radiotherapy and brachytherapy. Hormone therapy is also often provided to shrink the prostate and make high-risk cancer easier to treat.
How Effective is Radiation Therapy?
In early stages of the disease, patients frequently have a positive outcome. In fact, success rates of around 90% or higher can be achieved with either approach. When the cancer is more advanced, however, higher doses of radiation are critical to achieving better results. A combination of brachytherapy and external beam radiation has shown to be useful in patients with intermediate or high-risk prostate cancer. High-precision radiation therapy has been proven in the past to be successful in treating individuals with more advanced cancer. A UK study aimed to study the use of high-precision radiotherapy to treat men with advanced localized prostate cancer. Researchers wanted to find out whether the treatment could successfully target cancer cells that had spread outside the prostate to nearby lymph nodes and not damage nearby healthy cells. 447 men with locally advanced Prostate Cancer took part in the 10-year study. Five years after receiving treatment, up to 71% of patients were disease-free.
What to Expect after Radiation Treatment
Although radiation therapy does not hurt when it is given to you, the side effects may make you feel unpleasant. Common side effects of external beam radiation therapy, in particular, are fatigue and skin changes. After treatment, your skin may become red, warm, and sensitive to touch like a sunburn. Many patients complain of burning during urination or have trouble urinating. Incontinence is also a common side effect and a real concern for men who are considering this approach. However, this is often only a short-term side effect, and the risk of long-term severe incontinence is less than 5 percent. It is estimated that the likelihood of needing to wear a pad for mild leakage several years after treatment is less than 5 percent in younger men. Seniors have a 10 percent likelihood having to wear products years after treatment. Experts assert that the incontinence typically experienced is a mild urge to urinate with a small amount of leakage. After your treatment, your radiation oncologist will see you for follow-up visits and monitor any problems. In the meantime, our living with incontinence section can provide you with useful tips and advice.