Radiation is one of the most commonly-used tools in the fight against prostate cancer. It involves killing the cancer cells and the surrounding tissue with radioactive exposure.
One of the reasons that it is so popular is that it is highly effective It has proven to be successful at treating all forms of prostate cancer, from an initial manifestation of the disease to advanced or recurrent forms of cancer.
If you are currently facing the prospect of radiation, you must be wondering what to expect. Read on and you will discover all you need to know.
There are several different kinds of radiation therapy. The most common is external beam radiotherapy. The first step in this process uses CT scans and MRI machines to map out the exact location of the tumor cells. X-rays are then targeted directly at these specific areas. Using 3D conformal radiotherapy, a computerised programme maps out the specific location of the tumors so that the highest dose of radiation can reach the cancer cells within the prostate gland.
Advances in radiation technology now means much better delivery. Intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) allows oncologists to change the intensity of the doses and radiation beams in order to better target the prostate, while at the same time delivering lower doses to cells that are immediately adjacent to the bladder and rectal tissue.
This means that radiation therapy is much more precise and effective than ever before. There is also far less risk of damaging the surrounding tissue.
If you have opted for this form of radiation, you are going to be spending quite some time at your local hospital. Treatment usually runs for five days a week for about seven to eight weeks, normally on an outpatient basis.
There are other forms of radiation therapy too. While X-rays are the most common way of dealing with tumors, proton therapy is also becoming more widespread. The advantage associated with this type of radiation is that it is more precise. Protons of energetic particles can be aimed at a target without affecting surrounding tissue in the slightest.
Proton treatment is very effective at treating localized tumors before they have spread to other parts of the body. However, it is expensive and as a result, there are only a handful of medical centers currently offering the facility.
Brachytherapy is another radiation option. It’s not as time consuming as the others and doesn’t require regular trips to hospital. Instead, what happens is that tiny metal pellets containing radioactive iodine or palladium are injected into the prostate. Over the course of several months, these pellets will give off radiation to the surrounding area, killing the prostate cancer cells as they do so.
Within a year or so, the radioactive material should have done its work. Its radioactivity will have degraded and the pellets that remain will be totally harmless.
Together with your oncologist, you will decide on the best form of radiation for you. Just as in other areas of cancer treatment, your choice of oncologist is vital. Surgical skill plays an important role in determining the outcome of prostatectomy and so too does technical skill and manual dexterity influence the outcome of your radiation therapy.
The massive improvements in computer software have assisted greatly with the planning of radiation doses and in the targeting of prostate tissue. But, in the end, the skill and experience of your oncologist is still an important factor.
You must therefore choose your radiation oncologist very carefully. Make sure they have broad experience in a range of approaches. It is this that will allow them to help you to decide on the best course of treatment for your prostate cancer.