Radiotherapy, otherwise known as X-ray treatment, uses exceptionally high doses of radiation to annihilate prostate cancer cells, or to impede their growth and multiplication, whilst trying to minimize harm or injury to healthy cells.
Treatment with radiation that comes from an external source and is focused on the prostate gland can be administered. A doctor can also place radioactive substances within the tumor (known as internal radiation therapy or brachytherapy). These radioactive substances can be removed after the right amount has been attained, or they can be left in place permanently.
Radiation Therapy For Prostate Cancer
Different types of therapies have been developed to help in the treatment of cancer. The aim of these interventions is to annihilate the malignant cells, hoping to reduce the size of the cancerous growth and stop the advance of the dangerous cells.
Radiation therapy is employed to aim at particular parts of the body. The decision if radiation therapy should be applied alone or combined with additional treatments relies on the degree and region of the cancer.
If the prostate cancer is of a low severity and contained only to the prostate, radiation therapy may be effective in treating it.
When cancer has spread beyond its original gland and invaded other nearby tissues, radiation treatment is commonly paired with hormone therapy.
In some cases, radiation therapy may be used to protect against prostate cancer. The type of cancer that is present within the prostate is significant.
When a man has surgery for prostate cancer, and it comes back, radiation therapy can be used as a method to eradicate the cancer cells without needing to have a further surgical intervention.
Radiation therapy can be utilized to stop the progression of cancer when it has spread to other parts of the body, as well as provide a soothing of the signs and symptoms created by the cancer.
Men with prostate cancer can access various types of radiation therapy. This covers radiation from an outside source, plus brachytherapy which is radiation from within the body.
For patients with severe cancer that has metastasized to the bones, an injection of radiation is sometimes administered into their body. The most effective radiation therapy approach varies depending on the type of prostate cancer.
External radiation therapy is often used. In instances when external radiation therapy might not be enough to achieve the desired effect in treating the cancer, other measures may need to be taken.
How Radiation Therapy Works
Beginning the journey is the patient making an appointment to see a radiation oncologist. The radiation oncologist can figure out which form of treatment will be effective for the individual. This can involve either radiation treatment administered internally or externally.
The exact processes involved in radiation therapy vary depending on the type of technology employed. EBRT, also referred to as external beam radiation therapy, is currently a highly sought-after option. This employs an outside device which radiates a ray from a focal point. The light is focused on the area of the male body where the prostate is situated.
This medical care is usually given in an outpatients’ clinic, especially for those receiving external beam radiation therapy. In the majority of situations, the patient will require therapy five days out of the week.
The treatment may continue over several weeks. The patient will be told how long the treatment will last based on the results of the tests.
Receiving radiation therapy is akin to having an x-ray done. Yet, these machines release radiation that is way more potent than that of x-ray machines.
The therapy itself is considered painless by most individuals. More advanced methods have been developed, which are more effective in pinpointing the tumor afflicting the prostate.
Who Might Benefit From Radiation Therapy?
Your doctor might recommend radiation therapy in several situations.
This type of cancer, which has not yet metastasized to other parts of the body, can be treated as the first option. Its grade refers to the degree at which the cancer cells appear abnormal when looked at under a microscope. The more typical your cancer cells appear on a grade, the more probable that your cancer has a slower rate of growth.
Radiation therapy, in addition to hormonal treatment, may be included in your initial cancer treatment if the illness has extended beyond the prostate gland to nearby areas.
Your doctor might suggest radiation therapy after you have had surgery for prostate cancer. It can be beneficial if the doctor is unable to totally get rid of the malignancy or if the malignancy reappears in the region of the prostate.
Radiation therapy could potentially be used to help manage the progression of advanced prostate cancer and keep it from growing for a longer period of time. It may also be beneficial in managing or reducing any side effects that the cancer may cause.
What Happens on Treatment Days?
If you are undergoing radiation therapy from a source that is not within your body, you will require regular appointments (usually 5 days in a row) over a timeline of between 5 to 8 weeks.
The radiation therapist will assist you in getting on the treatment table and settling into the proper posture for each session. After making sure that you are in the correct position, the therapist will go outside and initiate the radiation therapy.
They’ll watch you closely during the treatment. There are surveillance cameras and a two-way loudspeaker installed in the treatment room for the therapist to observe and listen to you. Try to stay still and relaxed during treatment. Make sure to notify your therapist if you have any difficulties or you do not feel at ease.
They will come into the room for a short period of time to move the equipment and adjust your position. The device used for the procedure will not come into contact with you and you will not experience any physical sensations while being treated. Once the therapy session is finished, the therapist will assist you in getting up from the massage table.
The radiation therapist will obtain an X-ray, commonly known as a port film, during the initial day of therapy, and afterwards at approximately every seven-day period. Port movies show that you’re situated correctly while receiving treatments.
Portrayal movies are not able to supply particulars for analysis, so radiation therapists are unable to gain knowledge of the progression from them. The films that are made aid the therapists in ascertaining they are precisely targeting radiation therapy to the area that needs it.
10 Radiation Therapy Side Effects
1. Frequent Urination
The radiation beam’s impact on the prostate and nearby area, including the urethra, may cause a man to have to go to the bathroom more often. Occasionally, males will also report discomfort or obstruction when attempting to urinate.
2. Sexual Dysfunction
A man might discover that his sexual performance has decreased. There are instances where the individual suffers total impairment of their capability to achieve an erection. It would be impossible for the man to engage in any sexual acts.
Radiation treatment can reduce the amount of semen produced, which negatively impacts a man’s ability to father a child.
3. Skin Reactions
Some men report a reaction on their skin. In many instances, the man’s skin is of the delicate type.
The reaction may resemble the appearance of sunburn. This takes place where the radiation is being focused during the radiation treatment session.
Why Are There Marks on My Skin?
The radiation therapist will put tiny spots which look like freckles on the area that will receive the radiation therapy. These markings act as pointers for the procedure and create a lasting impression of the region being treated.
Do not attempt to clean these markings or touch them up if they become faint. The therapist will re-mark the treatment area when necessary.
How Can I Reduce Skin Reactions?
- Gently cleanse the treated area using lukewarm water and a mild soap such as Ivory, Dove, Neutrogena, Basis, Castile, or Aveeno Oatmeal Soap. Don’t rub. Pat your skin dry with a soft towel or use a hair dryer on a cool setting.
- Try not to scratch or rub the treated area.
- Don’t put any ointment, cream, lotion, or powder on the treated area unless your radiation oncologist or nurse has prescribed it.
- Don’t wear tight-fitting clothing or clothes made from harsh fabrics like wool or corduroy. These fabrics can irritate the skin. Instead, choose clothes made from natural fibers like cotton.
- Don’t apply medical tape or bandages to the treated area.
- Don’t expose the treated area to extreme heat or cold. Avoid using an electric heating pad, hot water bottle, or ice pack.
- Don’t expose the treated area to direct sunlight. That could intensify your skin reaction and lead to a severe sunburn. Choose a sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher. Protect the treated area from direct sunlight even after your course of treatment is over.
Will Radiation Therapy Make Me Tired?
Men often voice their grievances of exhaustion when they are receiving radiation treatment for prostate cancer.
Each individual has a different level of energy, so the result of radiation therapy will be distinctive for every person.
Many individuals tend to become fatigued after enduring a few weeks of treatment. For most, this fatigue is mild. Some folks expend a great deal of energy and require altering their habitual activities.
Your physician will converse with you about the possibility of having to curtail your level of physical activity, if necessary.
To minimize fatigue while you’re receiving radiation treatment:
- Get enough rest.
- Eat well-balanced, nutritious meals.
- Pace yourself, and plan rest breaks throughout your day.
5. Stomach Cramps
Another common side-effect is cramping in the abdominal region. Some people may experience only mild bellyache, but there have been reports of more serious stomach cramps from some patients.
Some men experience changes in their bowel movements too. Occasionally, individuals undergoing radiation therapy suffer from bouts of diarrhea, particularly those days during the treatment.
7. Rectal Leaks
Some men may discover that they experience some fluid discharge from their rear during bowel movements. It can be awkward and embarrassing if someone has a leakage problem while they are out in public.
8. Secondary Cancers
The potential side effect of radiation therapy for prostate cancer is the development of further cancers. These cancers that come out of the initial one often have an impact on the area that is close to the pelvic area.
In some cases, a man may experience bleeding. This may include blood in the urine. Sometimes, blood can be present in fecal matter when someone has a bowel movement.
10. Pain During Bowel Movement
Males may also experience aches and pains when having a bowel movement. This can further contribute to abdominal cramps.
It is not a guarantee that every patient receiving radiation therapy treatment will experience any of these potential side effects. It is worth pointing out that the patient is unlikely to feel all of the potential side effects.
Will My Diet Affect My Treatment?
Yes. Eating well is a significant factor in the healing process from the consequences of radiation treatments.
When you nourish your body with good food, you will be able to stay active and your immune system will be strong. Eating healthily can provide you with a feeling of contentment and satisfaction.
Inform your treatment team if you find it difficult to eat when you don’t feel well. You could also consider working with a dietitian. A nutritionist can assist in ensuring that you have sufficient nutrients while undergoing radiation treatment.
These tips might help while you’re going through treatment:
- Try new foods. Things that you haven’t liked in the past may taste better to you during treatment.
- Power up with plant-based foods. They can be healthy and tasty substitutes for meat. So for instance, swap out a burger or chicken for beans and peas at a few meals each week.
- Eat a rainbow of fruit and vegetables. Get your fill of these healthy powerhouses every day. Good options include spinach, raspberries, yellow peppers, carrots, and cauliflower.
- Limit or avoid unhealthy choices. That includes red or processed meats, sugary foods and drinks, and processed foods.
- Aim to stay at a healthy weight during treatment. You can ask your doctor what your ideal range on the scale should be. It’s normal to have small weight changes while you go through treatment.
- Try to stay physically active. If you’re not active now, you can ask your doctor how to move more and exercise safely.
When To Talk To Your Doctor
In many cases, men are able to skillfully handle the consequences of radiation therapy that arise in the home setting. Sometimes, however, the side effects can become more severe.
Under these circumstances, it is essential that the patient voices their concerns to their physician. Therapies exist to assist a man in managing the symptoms they are having.
You should think about seeing a doctor if your symptoms start having an important negative effect on your day-to-day activities. For instance, if there is a consistent discharge of urine or from the anus.
Seeing the doctor is recommended in cases when the urinary issues are serious and the individual is suffering from a large amount of pain.
Cases where the effects of the cancer treatment are not particularly serious can still be discussed with the medical team, including the radiation oncology nurse, in order to obtain guidance.
Radiation therapy is a frequently employed method to handle prostate cancer. It is inevitable that radiotherapy, whether taken on its own or with other treatments, will cause side effects.
One may experience difficulties with urination, intimacy, discomfort, and additional issues. Strategies can be useful for handling and making it through the consequences of radiation therapy.
Guys ought to be educated of these techniques to help mitigate the adverse results, which could promote better observance of their therapeutic plan.