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External Beam Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy is a type of cancer treatment that uses high-energy X-rays or radioactive seeds to directly target the cancerous cells in the prostate. The two types of radiation therapy are external beam radiation and brachytherapy.
Choosing to undergo radiation therapy requires a formal consultation with a radiation oncologist to make a decision regarding your treatment. A radiation oncologist is a physician who is board-certified specifically in the treatment of cancers utilizing radiation therapy.

External Beam Radiation Therapy

External Beam Radiation Therapy

The most common type of radiation therapy is called external beam radiation therapy. It is usually used to treat prostate cancer that is confined to the prostate or has spread only to nearby tissue. For advanced-stage prostate cancer, the radiation may be used to shrink the tumor and relieve symptoms.

IGRT and IMRT are two advanced techniques used to treat prostate cancer, often combined into the term IG-IMRT.

What Can I Expect During External Beam Radiation Therapy?

A high-tech machine called a linear accelerator delivers the radiation therapy with pinpoint precision to the targeted areas. The daily radiation therapy treatments are typically 15 minutes in duration, five days per week for either eight and a half weeks or five weeks, if combined with brachytherapy. You will not experience any pain; in fact, the sessions are much like receiving an X-ray while lying down. Treatment planning for radiation therapy also requires a CT-simulations to help best define the prostate target.

What Are the Benefits of External Beam Radiation Therapy?

Radiation therapy itself is painless and does not require a hospital stay or recovery time like surgery does. And because it uses beams that target only the cancerous areas, damage to surrounding tissue is minimized. Compared to men who undergo surgery, there is less chance of incontinence and a better chance for regaining sexual function.

What Are the Side Effects of External Beam Radiation Therapy?

Side effects will depend on the amount and duration of radiation required. Your radiation oncologist will discuss with you what you can expect and how to manage symptoms. In general, you may experience skin irritation and fatigue, and possibly erectile dysfunction and changes in frequency and urgency of urination.

What Are the Types of External Beam Radiation Therapy?

  • Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT) - Uses multiple beamlets of radiation therapy to sculpt the dose to the prostate and minimize scatter dose to the surrounding normal anatomy (such as the rectum, bladder, and femoral heads).
  • Image Guided Radiation Therapy (IGRT) - Uses prostate imaging at each treatment session to make sure the prostate has not moved. This ensures that the prostate is always targeted precisely during radiation treatment.