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About radiotherapy for prostate cancer

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This page tells you about radiotherapy for prostate cancer. There is information about

 

A quick guide to what's on this page

Radiotherapy to try to cure prostate cancer

Radiotherapy uses high energy rays to treat cancer. If your cancer has not spread, you can have radiotherapy to try to cure it. Radiotherapy to try to cure early prostate cancer can be external beam radiotherapy from a radiotherapy machine. Or it can be internal radiotherapy called brachytherapy, using small radioactive metal seeds that are left in the prostate gland.

Radiotherapy to treat prostate cancer that has spread

Radiotherapy can treat prostate cancer that has spread, for example to the bones. It can help to slow down the cancer growth in the treatment area and relieve symptoms.

Sometimes, doctors treat the whole body with internal radiotherapy to help control bone pain. You have an injection of a radioactive substance such as radium 223 or strontium 89. The radioactive liquid circulates throughout the body and is taken up by the cancer cells in the bone. It can destroy the cancer cells. 

 

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Radiotherapy to try to cure prostate cancer

Radiotherapy uses high energy rays to treat cancer. If your cancer has not spread beyond the prostate gland you can have radiotherapy to try to cure it. This is called radical radiotherapy. This type of treatment involves giving a high dose of radiation to the prostate gland. 

Radical radiotherapy is more likely to cure you if your cancer is found very early. In localised prostate cancer, radiotherapy gets rid of the cancer for good in about 2 out of 3 men (over 60%). If the cancer has started to spread outside the prostate gland it is less likely to be cured.

There are different ways of giving radiotherapy to try to cure prostate cancer. These include external beam therapy and internal radiotherapy (brachytherapy).

External beam therapy

External beam radiotherapy directs radiotherapy beams at the cancer from a machine. There is detailed information about external beam radiotherapy for prostate cancer in this section.

Internal radiotherapy (brachytherapy)

Internal radiotherapy treats the prostate cancer with radiotherapy from inside the prostate gland. You can read about internal radiotherapy (brachytherapy) for prostate cancer in this section.

 

Radiotherapy to treat prostate cancer that has spread

Radiotherapy is used in two main ways to treat more advanced prostate cancer. It can be used for

There is detailed information about radiotherapy to treat prostate cancer that has spread in this section.

Treating individual areas of cancer that has spread

External radiotherapy is used to shrink secondary tumours and so control pain. It is mainly used to treat secondary cancer in the bones. The treatment works by killing off most of the cancer cells in the treated area. This makes the cancer shrink, and so relieves the pressure on nerves that causes pain. 

Secondary bone cancer also weakens the bones because the growing cancer cells destroy the bone. A bone affected by cancer is more likely to break (fracture), although this is rare in prostate cancer. After radiotherapy treatment, bone cells begin to replace the lost bone tissue. Then the bone gets stronger again and is less likely to fracture.

Treating the whole body to control pain

Treatment to control symptoms is called palliative radiotherapy. Sometimes a large area of the body is treated in one go with a lower dose of radiation from an external radiotherapy machine. This is called hemi body irradiation.

If several areas of bone are affected by cancer, doctors may suggest using an internal radiotherapy treatment such as radium 223 or strontium 89. These are radioactive liquid therapies (radio isotopes) given by injection into a vein. The radium 223 or strontium 89 circulates throughout the body. It is taken up by the areas of cancer cells in the bone and destroys them. This type of treatment can help to control pain. It can also slow down the rate of growth of the cancer in the bones.

 

More information about radiotherapy

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Updated: 24 February 2014