Radiation treatment, often referred to as X-ray therapy, utilizes large doses of radiation to annihilate prostate cancer cells or hinder them from developing and dividing while attempting to cause as little damage as possible to healthful cells.
External radiation can be administered from a device outside the body, with the target being the prostate. A doctor can also put in radioactive substances into the cancerous growth (internal radiation treatment or brachytherapy). These radioactive substances can be taken out once the desired dosage has been achieved, or they can stay in place permanently.
Who Might Benefit From Radiation Therapy?
Your doctor might recommend radiation therapy in several situations.
This form of cancer, which hasn’t expanded outside of the prostate gland and is considered to be of “low grade”, can be one of the initial ways to treat it. A degree is a number that indicates how unusual your cancer cells look under a microscope. The grade of cancer corresponds to how similar the cancer cells appear to normal cells. Generally, a lower grade indicates that the cancer is likely to develop at a slower rate.
Radiation and/or hormone therapy may be part of the initial treatment plan if cancer has moved away from the prostate to adjacent areas.
Your physician may suggest that you receive radiation therapy after undergoing a procedure for treating prostate cancer. The surgeon may be unable to get all of the cancer, or cancer may recur in the vicinity of your prostate, and such situations could be advantageous.
Radiation may prove useful in managing your advanced prostate cancer and sustaining its remission for an extended time period. This could also assist in averting or reducing any distress that could be caused by cancer.
What Happens on Treatment Days?
If you are receiving radiation therapy from an outside source, you need to show up for regular appointments (commonly occurring 5 times each week) during a span of roughly 5 to 8 weeks.
The radiation therapist will assist you in getting into place on the treatment table for each session. Once the therapist has made certain you are in the correct place, they will go out of the area and initiate the radiation therapy.
They’ll watch you closely during the treatment. There are cameras and a speaker in the therapy space, meaning the therapist will always have a visual and audio connection to you. Try to stay still and relaxed during treatment. Inform the therapist if you are having any difficulties or if you are not feeling at ease.
How Can Radiation Be Used to Help Treat Prostate Cancer?
High-energy x-rays or other forms of ionizing radiation may be utilized to target and destroy prostate cancer cells or impede them from replicating.
Three primary types of radiation therapy may be used in prostate cancer treatments:
1. External radiation therapy.
This treatment utilizes modern technology to generate a three-dimensional image of the tumor or cancer cells.
The image is employed to ensure that the radiation beams are properly aligned with the dimensions and form of the tumor and to effectively target it via an x-ray machine that is located outside the body. An upside of this kind of therapy is that the healthier tissue near the tumor is left intact.
Radiation therapy is used to treat prostate cancer that has spread to the bone or is in stages 1, 2, 3, or 4, and those who have undergone a radical prostatectomy, typically including the removal of lymph nodes.
Proton beam radiation therapy is another term for external radiation therapy. In this form of radiotherapy, proton beams are used to attack cancer cells.
Clinical trials are showing uncertain effects on cancer outcomes. How long do we need to wait until additional trials are conducted?
2. Internal radiation therapy.
Radioactive needles, seeds or catheters that are wired are inserted either within the tumor or in close proximity, and the radiation emitted is monitored by either ultrasound imaging or computerized tomography. The radioactive seeds are inserted into the area between the rectum and the scrotum using needles, and then the needles are removed after the implementation. This treatment is for individuals who have early-stage prostate cancer.
This therapy is available for those diagnosed with Prostate Cancer at any of the three levels: Stage 1, 2, or 3.
3. Hypofractionated radiation therapy.
This particular radiation therapy involves giving greater doses of radiation than usual, but over a shorter period of time than what is typically seen with radiation therapy.
The consequences of using heavy doses of radiation in a short period of time are generally more severe than those of traditional radiation treatment due to the lack of time for the body to recuperate.
There are two distinct forms of hypofractionated radiation therapy – a conventional fraction pattern or a hypofractionated proton beam approach.
In one research project focusing on this issue, 56 men were given this specific treatment method. A follow-up evaluation was conducted four years later, and it was found that 25% of the males had experienced a come back of their affliction. This recurrence happened about twenty months after radiation therapy. In the study, 28% of participants had protracted blood in the urine, lasting in 7% of them.
When Is Radiation Therapy, the Best Option for Treating Prostate Cancer?
Radiation therapy is typically recommended when the level of Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) increases and there is not a presence of tumors that can be detected through imaging, according to the Prostate Cancer Foundation.
When treating the condition, the range of treatment methods available can involve observation, operation or radiotherapy, which each individual situation must be considered to determine the best course of action.
Talking to your doctor about your situation is absolutely crucial before simply agreeing with the way they suggest treating it. Creating a comprehensive list of queries is especially essential for the judgments you make right now.
Safety and Effectiveness of Radiation for Prostate Cancer
How safe is radiation therapy for prostate cancer patients?
Most people undergoing radiation therapy don’t sense anything in the moment, however the impacts of radiation build up through extended use. At the start, there are few consequences, but then they become more prominent over time.
Medical professionals have established that treating men with low-risk prostate cancer through the expedient delivery of a high dose of radiation in one session is a secure and successful approach.
In April 2019, an article appeared in the European Society for Radiotherapy and Oncology medical journal.
This study compared the consequences of utilizing radiation treatment in a higher dosage administered from catheters directly into the prostate tumor to the outcomes of a lower dose treatment.
After two years had passed, only 6% of the men had cancer come back. At the end of a three-year period, the effectiveness of the high-risk cancer group went down to 75%.
Out of the 441 men with prostate cancer, 27 of them had increased PSA levels. Of those 27 people, 15 experienced a return of the cancer and the other 12 had metastases.
The investigators came to the conclusion that high dose rate brachytherapy is secure and successful for men suffering from low-risk prostate cancer, however, not necessarily those in the medium and high-risk group.
In spite of its repute as a secure and efficient approach, radiation treatment may sometimes be futile.
Would it still be considered safe if the negative effects of radiation therapy start to increase? At what point do healthy cells in the body experience damage from radiation therapy used for treatment?
For instance, what are the circumstances that cause healthy cells to incur mitochondrial harm or free radical/oxidative destruction from the radiation? No research has been conducted on this topic.
Safety and effectiveness are really in the eyes of the beholder.
In prostate cancer treatment, often hormone therapy is used. This is the place where hormones are administered that prevent the amount of testosterone from rising. The idea is to diminish the amount of testosterone, which could be helping the prostate cancer cells, so the cancer won’t continue growing.
Castration-resistant prostate cancer that has advanced to the stage where it has spread beyond its initial location and does not respond to treatments such as radiation is called “metastatic”. Carcinoma of the prostate that has metastasized to additional areas of the body.
Testosterone, a male hormone, gives prostate cancer cells their energy, but even if hormone treatments are used to reduce testosterone levels, the cancer may still be present.
This is when the cancer is called metastatic castration-resistant. The usual course of action is to keep administering the medications that reduce the male’s sexual hormones, and to add chemotherapy if applicable and/or any other therapies.
Your oncologist might suggest now that you investigate clinical trials concerning metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer.
Nevertheless, clinical trials are primarily designed for clinicians and researchers, rather than patients.
The trials are only checking out different materials or methods of treatment, and it is a matter of chance. This may not be a gamble you would like to make.
Abiraterone acetate is a medication called Zytiga. Chemotherapy is utilized when treating metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer. The medication stops the production of androgens. Prednisone is administered concurrently.
Once unfortunately a diagnosis has become advanced enough to show signs of metastases, hospice care and palliative care may soon be needed. However, this is from a medical point of view.
A different healer with alternative medicine/complementary care for this condition might have a different approach, as could a spiritual practitioner. You have explored all medical options; this diagnosis implies you have come to your last resort.
What Side Effects Will I Have?
During your treatment, radiation must pass through your skin. An observation of some alterations in the skin in the rays of radiation may be visible.
Your skin could appear reddened, puffy, hot, and may be tender to the touch, just like a sunburn. It may peel or become moist and tender. The amount of radiation administered can cause hair loss or decrease of perspiration in the region that was exposed.
These skin reactions are common and temporary. The effects of the treatment will diminish over the course of four to six weeks after the completion of it. Be alert for any odd skin alterations away from the spot that was addressed and inform your healthcare provider or nurse.
Long-term side effects, which can last up to a year or longer after treatment, may include:
- A slight darkening of the skin.
- Enlarged pores.
- Skins feels more or less sensitive.
- A thickening of tissue or skin.
Other possible side effects of external beam radiation therapy are:
Tiredness. It might take a few weeks or months after you complete radiation therapy before your tiredness dissipates.
Lymphedema. If radiation therapy harms the lymph nodes near your prostate gland, the liquid can accumulate in your lower limbs or private parts. That can bring on swelling and pain. Typically, physical therapy can be utilized to address lymphedema; however, it may not be resolved entirely.
Bowel problems. Radiation can irritate the area in your lowerback known as the rectum and cause a medical disorder referred to as radiation proctitis. You may suffer from loose bowel movements, bloody feces, or be unable to control when you defecate. Most of these side effects fade eventually. Your physician may recommend that you adhere to a specific diet regimen during your treatment to reduce the chances of digestion issues.
Urinary problems. Exposure to radiation can be a possible source of inflammation in the bladder, resulting in a medical condition known as radiation cystitis. You might:
- Have to pee more often.
- Feel like it burns when you pee.
- Notice blood in your urine.
Issues similar to these typically improve in the long run, yet some individuals may not find resolution.
It’s possible you may have difficulty restraining your urine flow, or it could escape or trickle out. That’s part of a condition called urinary incontinence. Radiation is known to generally cause side effects less commonly than after undergoing surgery.
A not-so-common complication connected with radiation therapy for the prostate is that the urethra, the tube that transports urine from the bladder out of the body, might end up too thin or block off completely. If that occurs, more therapy will be necessary to open it up again.
Erection problems. This can refer to difficulties with achieving or maintaining an erection. If you suffer from erectile dysfunction after radiation therapy, it is likely that this will not appear suddenly, but over a gradual period of time. As one gets older, the probability of having difficulty obtaining an erection increases. Your physician possesses various remedies, medications among them, that are frequently able to be advantageous.
Consider the potential adverse effects when deliberating on what treatment to select. If you have any worries, don’t be afraid to express them.
While undergoing therapy, discuss with your physician any reactions you are experiencing. Ask for ways to get relief.
Will My Diet Affect My Treatment?
Yes. It is vital to fuel your body with healthy food in order to aid in recovering from the repercussions of radiation therapy.
When you have a good diet, you will have the strength to do the activities that you enjoy, and your body is able to mend itself and fight off sickness. Eating healthy foods is of paramount importance as it can provide you with a sense of contentment.
Inform your medical staff if you find it difficult to eat when you are feeling unwell. You could also consider working with a dietitian. They can assist in guaranteeing that you are consuming sufficient nourishment during your 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.