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Prostate Cancer Therapy FAQ

Because there is so much information surrounding prostate cancer therapy and treatment options, it can sometimes be overwhelming to know where to start. This page aims to address some of the most frequently asked questions (FAQ) about prostate cancer therapy. While the Q&A below can be helpful with some of your initial questions, it’s important to discuss them with your doctor, as every patient is unique, and individualized discussions with healthcare professionals are crucial for personalized treatment plans.


Frequently Asked Questions:

  • What are the treatment options available for prostate cancer?

    Treatment options for prostate cancer include active surveillance, surgery (prostatectomy), radiation therapy (external beam or brachytherapy), hormone therapy, chemotherapy, cryotherapy, immunotherapy, and/or targeted therapy. The choice of treatment depends on various factors such as cancer stage, grade, and patient preferences.

  • How do doctors determine the appropriate prostate cancer therapy for an individual patient?

    The prostate cancer therapy decision is based on various factors, including the cancer stage, grade, overall health, and patient preferences. Healthcare professionals, including urologists and radiation oncologists, work closely with patients to develop personalized treatment plans.

  • What are the different types of radiation treatments used for prostate cancer?

    Prostate cancer radiation treatments include external beam radiation therapy (EBRT), brachytherapy (internal radiation), proton therapy, stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT), and other specialized techniques. Each treatment approach has its unique benefits and considerations.

  • What is external beam radiation therapy for prostate cancer?

    External beam radiation therapy for prostate cancer involves directing high-energy radiation beams from outside the body to the prostate gland, precisely targeting and destroying cancer cells while minimizing damage to surrounding healthy tissues.

  • What is brachytherapy for prostate cancer?

    Brachytherapy for prostate cancer is a type of prostate cancer radiation therapy where radioactive seeds or sources are placed directly into the prostate gland. These seeds emit radiation, effectively treating the cancer while minimizing radiation exposure to nearby tissues.

  • What is stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT) for prostate cancer?

    SBRT is a highly precise prostate cancer radiation therapy technique that delivers a few large doses of radiation to the prostate, completing treatment within a shorter time frame. It offers excellent cancer control outcomes with minimal impact on surrounding healthy tissues.

  • What is image-guided radiation therapy (IGRT) for prostate cancer?

    IGRT involves using imaging techniques, such as X-ray, CT, and/or MRI, to visualize the prostate before and during radiation therapy. This real-time imaging allows for precise tumor targeting, accounting for any anatomical changes that may occur during treatment.

  • What is intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) for prostate cancer?

    IMRT is an advanced prostate cancer radiation therapy technique that allows for precise delivery of radiation beams of varying intensities to conform to the shape of the prostate. This approach reduces radiation exposure to nearby healthy tissues, minimizing side effects.

  • What should I expect before a radiation treatment session for prostate cancer?

    Prior to a prostate cancer radiation treatment session, you may undergo a treatment planning session where specialized imaging scans, such as CT or MRI, are taken to precisely map out the treatment area. This process helps ensure accurate radiation delivery and may involve the use of immobilization devices and fiducial markers.

  • Are there other procedures that occur prior to radiation therapy?

    Prior to prostate cancer radiation therapy, patients may undergo simulation, where imaging scans and measurements are taken to plan the treatment. This step helps determine the exact position and dosage of radiation to ensure accurate and effective treatment. Additionally, patients may also receive fiducial markers and/or a rectal spacer prior to beginning radiation treatment.

  • What are fiducial markers and their role in prostate cancer therapy?

    Fiducial markers are tiny metal markers placed in or near the prostate to help guide prostate radiation therapy. These markers act as reference points for accurate tumor targeting and ensure precise radiation delivery to the intended area. If you are also receiving a rectal spacer prior to radiation therapy, your doctor may implant the fiducial markers at the same time.

  • Who are the key members of the prostate cancer radiation treatment team?

    The prostate cancer radiation treatment team typically includes a radiation oncologist, radiation therapist, medical physicist, dosimetrist, and radiation oncology nurse. Each member plays a crucial role in delivering safe and effective radiation therapy, coordinating treatment, and providing support throughout the process. Download the prostate cancer radiation treatment journey map to learn more about the radiation treatment team.

  • What is the role of a radiation oncologist in prostate cancer treatment?

    A radiation oncologist is a specialized doctor who oversees radiation therapy. They work closely with the patient to develop a personalized treatment plan, determine the appropriate radiation technique, monitor progress, and manage the patient response including any side effects that may occur.

  • Can radiation therapy be combined with other treatments for prostate cancer?

    Yes, prostate cancer radiation therapy can be combined with other treatments depending on the individual case. For instance, it may be used in combination with hormone therapy to enhance effectiveness or as a follow-up to surgery in certain situations. The decision is based on the patient’s specific needs and the stage of cancer.

  • How long does each radiation treatment session typically last?

    Each radiation treatment session for prostate cancer therapy usually lasts approximately 15 to 30 minutes, including the time for positioning and ensuring precise alignment. The actual delivery of radiation takes only a few minutes and is generally an outpatient procedure. The radiation beam is painless and not felt during the delivery.

  • What is the number of radiation treatments for prostate cancer patient typically receive?

    The number of radiation treatments for prostate cancer therapy you receive depends on the specific treatment approach and individual circumstances. Treatment usually consists of multiple sessions, typically ranging from 20 to 40 treatments.

  • How long does a typical course of radiation treatment for prostate cancer last?

    A typical course of radiation treatment for prostate cancer therapy usually lasts between 2 to 8 weeks, depending on the specific treatment technique and individual treatment plan.

  • What is hypofractionated radiation therapy?

    Hypofractionated radiation therapy is a treatment technique where larger doses of radiation are delivered in fewer sessions. This approach allows for shorter treatment durations while maintaining effective cancer control.

  • What are the potential side effects of radiation therapy for prostate cancer?

    Side effects of prostate cancer radiation therapy may include fatigue, urinary changes, erectile dysfunction, skin irritation, or bowel changes such as increased frequency, loose stools, or rectal discomfort. However, advances in radiation technology and precise treatment planning have significantly reduced the risk and severity of these side effects and they are usually manageable and resolve over time with appropriate management strategies.

  • What is radiation proctitis?

    Radiation proctitis refers to inflammation and damage to the lining of the rectum as a result of prostate cancer radiation therapy. It can cause symptoms such as rectal bleeding, diarrhea, and discomfort, but various management strategies are available to alleviate these effects.

  • How does a rectal spacer help during prostate radiation therapy?

    A rectal spacer, such as Barrigel, is placed between the rectum and the prostate to create a physical barrier. This spacer helps minimize radiation exposure to the rectum, reducing the risk of rectal side effects during prostate cancer radiation therapy.

  • Can radiation therapy be repeated if prostate cancer recurs?

    In cases of recurrent prostate cancer, radiation therapy can be considered as a treatment option. The decision to repeat radiation therapy depends on various factors, including the location and extent of the recurrence, the patient’s overall health and the amount of radiation that was previously delivered to the rectum.

While this prostate cancer therapy FAQ can be used as an educational resource, it is always important to consult with your doctor for personalized advice. Your medical team is best equipped to address your unique concerns and develop a tailored treatment plan for the best possible outcomes.