the ins and outs of prostate cancer and radiation oncology

Radiation therapy (sometimes called radiotherapy) uses high-energy rays (or concentrated particles) to find and destroy cancer cells in a specific part of the body.

For prostate cancer, radiation therapy may be used as a primary treatment if the cancer is confined to the prostate and low grade or if the cancer has grown to nearby tissue. If the cancer is not removed completely after surgical oncology, radiation may also be used. Also, if the cancer is advanced, an oncologist may recommend radiotherapy to control the cancer for as long as possible and relieve the cancer symptoms.

How Does it Work?

There are two main types of radiotherapy clinical oncology used for prostate cancer: brachytherapy and external-beam radiation therapy. Brachytherapy is internal, injected into the cancerous area, and external-beam is, as expected, external, with beams similar to an x-ray.

What Are the Side Effects?

Side effects of radiation include fatigue, rectal irritation (like bowel urgency, discomfort, diarrhea, or frequent and uncomfortable urination), dry skin, and possible hair loss in the pelvic area. There’s a chance the hair loss may be permanent.

In some rare instances, radiation can cause impotence in men, and this typically presents itself 1-3 years after the treatment. Be sure to take necessary steps before starting treatment if you still want to start or expand your family, and keep up with your doctor’s appointments after finishing treatment.

Written by: Joanna Hynes

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