"Health wise I am feeling great. I am a big supporter of trials - it allows new treatments and drugs to be brought in.”
A trial looking at the side effects of radiotherapy for prostate cancer and quality of life during and after treatment
We know that this is an especially worrying time for people with cancer and their family and friends. We have separate information about coronavirus and cancer. Please read that information alongside this page. We will update that information as guidance changes.
This trial compared side effects of external beam radiotherapy only with external beam radiotherapy plus high dose rate brachytherapy. The study focussed on men’s quality of life during and after both types of treatment.
More about this trial
Doctors often treat prostate cancer with external beam radiotherapy. If suitable they also give an extra dose of radiotherapy. This is called a
Internal radiotherapy is also called brachytherapy. In this type of treatment, the radioactive sources are inside the body, delivering the radiation directly to the cancer. So brachytherapy gives a high dose of radiotherapy to the prostate cancer without affecting too much of the surrounding healthy tissue.
In this trial the researchers used high dose rate brachytherapy. In high dose rate brachytherapy, the doctor puts thin tubes containing a radioactive material that gives a high dose of radiotherapy to the prostate gland in a short time. When the correct dose is reached the doctor removes the radioactive tubes. You then have no radiation left in your prostate.
The aims of this study were to compare the side effects of external beam radiotherapy only with external beam radiotherapy plus high dose rate brachytherapy and to see how these treatments affected quality of life.
Summary of results
The trial team found that giving a booster dose of brachytherapy didn’t affect the men’s quality of life.
This trial recruited 194 men from The Exeter Oncology Centre and Torbay Oncology Unit who were having radiotherapy treatment for prostate cancer.
- 97 men had external beam radiotherapy only
- 97 men had a booster dose of brachytherapy before their external beam radiotherapy
All the men filled in questionnaires at the end of their treatment and then after
- 1 month
- 3 months
- 6 months
- 1 year
- 2 years
The questions asked about any side effects they had from treatment and how they were feeling. This is called a quality of life study.
Overall the researchers found that there was no significant difference between the 2 groups’ quality of life and side effects at any point. This couldn’t have happened by chance and so it was
For men in both groups, urinary and bowel side effects were the worst at the end of treatment. But for most of the men, these side effects had gone a month after treatment. At 2 years after treatment, very few men reported having ongoing urinary problems.
The trial team concluded that giving a booster dose to the prostate before radiotherapy didn’t affect the men’s quality of life. As a result of this trial, both The Exeter Oncology Centre and Torbay Oncology Unit now give a booster dose of brachytherapy to the prostate gland before external beam radiotherapy for prostate cancer.
We have based this summary on information from the team who ran the trial. The information they sent us has been reviewed by independent specialists (
How to join a clinical trial
Dr Anna Lydon
Major Ronald Ferguson Memorial Fund
NIHR Clinical Research Network: Cancer
PCAS Prostate Cancer Network
Royal Devon & Exeter NHS Foundation Trust
South Devon Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust