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Treating Prostate Cancer with Radiation Therapy

The treatment options for men diagnosed with prostate cancer can depend on many things. With early detected, some men may not need treatment at all. Doctors may recommend an approach called watchful waiting or active surveillance, which involves regular follow up exams and blood tests to monitor the progression of the cancer.

If it is discovered that the cancer is progressing, your doctor may recommend a treatment option such as radiation therapy.

What Is Radiation Therapy?

Radiation therapy, also known as X-ray therapy, uses high levels of radiation to kill cancer cells, and keep them from growing and spreading, minimizing damage to healthy cells. Radiation therapy for the treatment of prostate cancer can be delivered in two ways:

External Beam Radiation

External beam radiation therapy involves using a machine to direct high-powered beams of X-rays towards the site of your cancer. Usually several

separate radiation beams are combined to shape the radiation to the prostate cancer. This technique is called “three-dimensional conformal radiation therapy” or “3D-CRT”. All external beam therapy involves painless radiation treatments that are typically delivered in a series of 30 minute daily sessions over a period of six to ten weeks.

Radioactive Seed Implants

Brachytherapy or internal radiation therapy refers to a procedure that involves implanting radioactive seeds, typically composed of iodine-125 or palladium-103, into the prostate gland. The number of implants and their placement is determined by a treatment plan designed specifically around each individual patient. Anywhere from 40 to 100 seeds can be implanted to treat prostate cancer. The implants are usually permanent, gradually becoming biologically inert over a period of months. The procedure takes approximately 90 minutes and most patients can return home the same day.

Depending on your specific needs, your doctor may recommend that radioactive seed implants be combined with external beam radiation. Both treatment methods have similar side-effects, including fatigue and increased urination. These side-effects typically go away within weeks of completing treatment.

Talk to your doctor for more information about prostate cancer prevention and treatment.