Treating Prostate Cancer With Radiotherapy
Radiotherapy or radiation therapy is usually offered to cancer patients as a treatment option. However, in case of prostate cancer, radiotherapy is rather complex with both benefits and risks.
In this procedure, the cancer cells are exposed to high radiations as they destroy the DNA present in the cancerous cells, keeping them from growing in number and spreading to the nearby organs. In advanced stages of prostate cancer, where it cannot be entirely removed, radiotherapy may be recommended by the doctor.
Types Of Radiotherapy Offered In Case Of Prostate Cancer
Listed below are the types of radiotherapies available for treating prostate cancer:
- External beam radiation (EBRT): In EBRT a huge machine is employed for the direction of X-ray beams on the target area i.e. the prostate gland, after the exact calculation of radiation dose. CT scans and MRI may also be done as supporting imaging tests. This type of radiotherapy lasts for up to weeks as the amount of dose required to destroy the cancerous cells is far too high to be given in one session. Therefore, for the safety of healthy cells, doctor may recommend several sessions with a gap of at least 2 days.
- Internal radiation therapy (IRT): Also referred to as brachytherapy, the procedure focuses on targeting the cancerous cells. In this type, tiny radioactive pallets are placed into the prostate which may as well be large due to increased radiation dose. In the temporary version of IRT, these seeds like pallets may remain inserted for a period lasting from several minutes up to 2 days whereas in the permanent variation the pallets are only removed when their radioactivity is lost.
- Systemic radiation: In this type, a liquid containing radioactive substance is either injected into the vein or taken orally by the patient. Once in the body the liquid ultimately reaches to the target site.
Either of the radiotherapy types may be recommended by the doctor. Upon failure of one, the other may be effective. At times chemotherapy and radiotherapy are given in a combination for better yield of the results. Apart from chemo and radiotherapy surgery may as well be considered as a treatment option for prostate cancer but it is only done when it is necessary. In rare cases a combination of both surgery and radiotherapy may be used for the complete destruction of cancerous cells.
While it can be a beneficial, radiotherapy comes with numerous side effects and risks such as:
- Damage to the healthy cells: Since radiations cannot tell apart the normal cells and the cancerous cells therefore they can at times damage the normal healthy skin cells as well. Luckily, normal cells have the ability to repair themselves unlike the cancerous cells.
- Skin sensitivity: The area of the skin exposed to the radiation may at time develop sensitivity which may be eased by any prescribed lotion.
- Fatigue: radiotherapy not only physically but also mentally drains the patient. The doctor may suggest counseling to counter that.
Radiations used during the radiotherapy make the patient radioactive for time being; therefore the patient is requested to stay at the treatment facility until the effect wears off.
- Sooriakumaran, P., Nyberg, T., Akre, O., Haendler, L., Heus, I., Olsson, M., … & Wiklund, P. (2014). Comparative effectiveness of radical prostatectomy and radiotherapy in prostate cancer: observational study of mortality outcomes. Bmj, 348, g1502.