Lithotripsy :: Chemotherapy :: Radiotherapy
Hormone Therapy :: Brachytherapy :: Surgery TURP
What is Radiation Therapy?
Radiation therapy, also called radiotherapy uses high-energy rays to kill cancer cells generated outside the body by a machine called a 'Linear Accelerator'. Damaging the cancer cells means that they cannot grow or multiply and so they die. Normal cells are also damaged in this procedure but usually recover.
Which patients get Radiation Therapy?
Radiotherapy may be given in different settings. It can be used for treatment of cancer limited to an organ such as the prostate or bladder (usually in combination with hormonal therapy or chemotherapy) and in a small number of men with low volume testicular cancer spread to abdominal lymph glands. It can also be used as a palliative (relief giving) treatment for symptoms or to prevent symptoms of disease spread which is not curable.
A number of tests will be carried out to see if radiation therapy will help, including:
- Checking pathology reports
- Tumour marker tests (e.g. PSA, HCG, aFP)
- Chest X-ray
- CAT scans of abdomen and pelvis
- Bone scans
The bowel, bladder and prostate all lie next to each other and during radiotherapy some of the normal cells of the bowel or bladder may be damaged. Although care is taken so that radiation does not affect these areas, sometimes it is unavoidable. The side effects of Radiation Therapy will differ between men and this is not always predictable.
Short-term side effects may include:
- A burning feeling when urinating or the need to urinate more often or more urgently. There may be haematuria (blood in the urine)
- Bowel movements may become looser and more frequent, with blood and discomfort when emptying the bowel.
- Temporary loss of energy and increased lethargy during therapy which usually resolves soon after treatment.
Long-term side effects
A small number of men may develop long term complications from radiation therapy including:
- Frequent rectal bleeding or other bowel problems.
- Sexual problems, including erectile dysfunction and discomfort or a lack of fluid during ejaculation.
- Frequent episodes of blood in the urine and other urinary problems.
- A small risk of developing a second cancer within the field treated with radiation.
These side effects do not occur with all radiotherapy treatments or for all people receiving the same treatment. Full discussion with the radiation oncologist before treatment starts will help to clarify what may be expected.