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Radiation Therapy for Prostate Cancer

There are several types of radiation therapy doctors can use to treat prostate cancer. At UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, our experts treat prostate cancer patients with:

IMRT and IGRT for Prostate Cancer

IMRT and IGRT are two technologies that make radiation treatment more effective — and more precise — than it was in the past. When used together, IGRT and IMRT can provide oncologists with exact information prior to treatment — and a way to provide skillful care based on that information.

Image-guided radiotherapy (IGRT)

Tumors often change shape and position due to therapy. IGRT tracks a tumor through the full course of treatment using a variety of imaging techniques. Oncologists then use those images to guide the therapy.

This way, treatment uses new, accurate images rather than older images that may no longer reflect the tumor's anatomy.

Intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT)

IMRT is a highly precise radiation therapy that allows the beam to better target the tumor. By adjusting the shape, oncologists can lower the dose that hits organs near the tumor. This allows oncologists to treat the prostate with high doses of radiation, while reducing damage to the rectum, bladder, and femoral heads.

IMRT can potentially provide more effective treatment, and fewer side effects, than other types of radiation.

Brachytherapy for Prostate Cancer

Brachytherapy is a type of radiation therapy that uses radioactive metallic seeds, smaller than a grain of rice. These seeds are permanently placed inside the prostate gland to:

  • Deliver a high dose of radiation directly to the prostate gland and sometimes to the seminal vesicles.
  • Release radiation slowly over several months — and stop releasing it within a year.

Doctors may use brachytherapy alone or with external radiation, depending on the stage of cancer. These seeds from brachytherapy treatment can remain in place for the rest of a person's life.

Side Effects of Prostate Cancer Radiation Oncology Therapy

Radiation treatment for prostate cancer can produce side effects, such as:

  • Bowel problems. Radiation can irritate the rectum, causing pain, burning, and diarrhea. These problems usually go away with time.
  • Bladder problems. After radiation, you may urinate more often, have trouble controlling the flow of urine, or have a burning sensation when urinating. These problems usually happen in the weeks following treatment and get better with time, but in some men they never go away.
  • Erection problems. Erection problems usually don't happen right after radiation therapy but can get worse over time. The older you are, the more likely you are to develop long-term problems with erections following radiation.
  • Fatigue. Radiation can make you feel tired for a few weeks or even months after treatment stops.
  • Lymphedema. Sometimes radiation damages the lymph nodes around the prostate, and the lymph system can't return fluid to the heart efficiently. This fluid can collect in the legs or genital region, causing swelling and pain that's short-term (acute) or long-term (chronic).

Contact Us About Prostate Cancer Care

To learn more about prostate cancer care or to make an appointment, you can: