1 What is an External Beam Radiation for Prostate Cancer?
The goal of external beam radiation for prostate cancer is destroying the cancerous cells and at the same time sparing as much of the normal tissue as possible.
High-energy x-rays to kill cancer cells are used in external beam radiation for prostate cancer and in this procedure a machine called a linear accelerator generates the high-energy beams to aim it at the prostate gland.
The cancer cells are killed by destroying the genetic material which can control how the cells grow and divide but healthy cells are also affected leading to side effects.
This procedure may also be used for men who have prostate cancer that comes back after the surgery.
2 Reasons for Procedure
Your doctor will suggest an external beam radiation for prostate cancer as an option and for different reasons such as:
the primary treatment for cancer mostly at the early stage of cancer
in combination with other treatments such as hormone therapy, that is confined to your prostate
after surgery when there is a recurring of your cancer either in clinical evidence of cancer in your pelvis or in the form of increased levels of prostate-specific antigen (PSA)
after surgery in reducing the risk of cancer or adjuvant therapy
to reduce symptoms such as pain in the bone that are caused by advanced cancer which spreads beyond the prostate
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3 Potential Risks
Along with undergoing an external beam radiation for prostate cancer comes potential risks.
Depending on the dose and the amount of healthy tissue that is exposed to the radiation is the basis of the type and severity of side effects.
The most common side effects are temporary only, can be controlled and may improve over time.
Delivering the highest dose of radiation to the target while sparing surrounding healthy tissue is one of the newer technologies which is called intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) and the goal of this is to minimize the side effects of external beam radiation treatment.
sexual dysfunction such as a decrease in the volume of semen or diminished erectile function
Mostly the side effects are manageable and mild and may develop after months or even years. Consult your doctor regarding the short term and long term side effects of this procedure.
4 Preparing for your Procedure
You and your doctors will talk about the preparations to make sure that the radiation reaches the precise spot in your body where it is needed before external beam radiation for prostate cancer starts.
The goal of this is to make sure that the radiation will be precisely delivered to cancer and at the same time minimizing damages to surrounding healthy tissue.
Radiation simulation – several marker seeds will be inserted into your prostate by a radiologist a few days before your radiation because these will help to locate your prostate in each treatment session.
You will have to find a comfortable position during treatment because you need to lie still. There are customized immobilization devices that will be used to help you hold still.
Planning scans – to determine the exact area of your body to be treated your radiation therapy team will perform CT scan.
Your team will decide what kind of radiation and what dose you will receive based on your general health, goals for your treatment and the stage of your cancer after the planning process.
5 What to Expect
Here you can find out what to expect from your external beam radiation for prostate cancer procedure.
A machine that directs high-energy beams of radiation into your body is called a linear accelerator that is used in this procedure and this linear accelerator will move around you to deliver radiation from many angles as you lie on a table.
External beam radiation therapy is an outpatient procedure; given 5 days a week over a period of about seven to nine weeks. Sessions mostly last in less than an hour.
The actual radiation treatment only takes a few minutes because most of it is the preparation time.
In a session:
you will lie down in the positioned that is determined at the beginning of the simulation session
you may need help by using customized immobilization devices that will hold you still in the right positions
the linear accelerator machine might go around your body to deliver the radiation beams from different directions
you will breathe normally and lie still
your team will monitor you by using audio and video connections so that you can talk to them
you will not be able to feel any pain
6 Procedure Results
If you do not understand your external beam radiation for prostate cancer results, consult with your doctor.
You will have regular check-ups with your doctor after the treatment to check and evaluate if cancer responded to the treatment.
He will monitor your health and will check if your disease is in remission or if you will need any additional treatments.
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