Radiating the Cancerous Prostate
Patients may have the option of using radiation to treat their prostate cancer. The two forms of radiation are external beam radiation and radioactive seed implants (also known as brachytherapy). When prostate cancer is localized, radiation therapy serves as an alternative to surgery.
External beam radiation therapy is also commonly used to treat men with regional disease, whose cancers have spread too widely in the pelvis to be removed surgically, but show no evidence of spreading to the lymph nodes. The goal of radiation therapy is to kill the cancer cells.
External Beam Radiation Therapy
External beam radiation therapy generally involves treatments of 5 days a week for 6 or 7 weeks. In many cases, if the tumor is large, hormone therapy may be started at the time of radiation therapy and continued for several years. The primary target is the prostate gland itself. In addition, the seminal vesicles may be irradiated (since they are a relatively common site of cancer spread).
Radioactive Seed Implants
Radiation can also be delivered to the prostate in the form of dozens of tiny radioactive seeds implanted directly into the prostate gland. This approach, known as interstitial implantation or brachytherapy, has the advantage of delivering a high dose of radiation to tissues in the immediate area.
As practiced today, internal radiation therapy relies on ultrasound or CT to guide the placement of thin-walled needles through the skin of the perineum. Seeds made of radioactive palladium or iodine are delivered through the needles into the prostate according to a customized pattern—using computer programs—to conform to the shape and size of each man's prostate.
Radiation Therapy or Surgery?
Find out how radiation therapy compares with prostatectomy (surgical removal of the prostate) along the critical outcomes of survival, cancer recurrence, incontinence and erectile function.
PN 1002355 Rev A 04/2013
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