Helping Seniors Live Healthier Lives

Two Types Of Radiation Treatments For Prostate Cancer

Prostate cancer affects men in different ways. Some cancers develop so slowly that your doctor may recommend holding off on aggressive treatments. Other times, the cancer grows quickly and is at a higher risk of spreading. Then your doctor may recommend surgery, radiation treatments, or chemotherapy. Each person is different, so your doctor will take a personal approach when recommending the ideal prostate cancer treatment for you. One treatment that is common for prostate cancer is radiation therapy. Below are the two main types of radiation treatments you could receive.

Internal Radiation Treatments

When you receive this treatment, your doctor inserts tiny radioactive seeds into your prostate near the cancerous growth. The seeds emit a low level of radioactivity over a period of several weeks or months. The seeds are tiny, so they cause no discomfort. They are usually left inside your body even after the radioactivity wears off since, you don't even notice they are there.

A different type of internal radiation treatment doesn't require the use of permanent seeds. Instead, this type of treatment places small catheters near the site of your cancer. The catheters are left in place for a few days, during which time you'll receive multiple radiation treatments through them. Using this method, the doctor can deliver a higher dose of radiation each time, since the catheters are inserted for a short time and then removed after each session.

The insertion of the seeds or the catheters is performed in an operating room under anesthesia, so you won't feel any pain. Internal radiation treatments can be given alone or along with external beam radiation, depending on the size of the cancer and whether it has spread.

External Beam Radiation

External beam radiation is given with a machine that points x-rays or protons to a specific point on your body. The machines are computerized and highly efficient at pinpointing the exact spot to hit so your healthy tissues are spared as much as possible. You'll probably need to take these treatments every weekday for a few weeks. The treatments themselves are not painful, and they don't take long. However, getting positioned properly on the table often takes a while, and you may have discomfort when your body is held in place for the treatment. Sometimes external beam radiation is used to kill off the cancer cells as a form of cure and other times it is used to manage pain when the cancer has spread.

Radiation is a common treatment for prostate cancer because it is effective, especially in the early stages of the disease. However, your doctor can also consider chemotherapy, surgery, hormone therapy, or vaccine therapy. Sometimes two or more treatments are given together in an attempt to halt the disease or control its spread into your bones, lymph nodes, and other organs.