//Radiation Therapy
Radiation Therapy2017-02-21T02:24:39+00:00

Tell a mate you might be having radiation treatment for your cancer and there’s a fair chance he’ll respond with, “So will you turn green and glow in the dark?” That’s the way many of us think of radiation, as the dangerous by-product of nuclear power plants and the accidental means of turning mild-mannered men into cartoon superheroes. So what’s the real story with radiation therapy and how will it be used on your prostate?

Internal affairs

There are two forms of prostate cancer radiation therapy available in Australia. The first of these is called ‘internal radiotherapy’ or ‘brachytherapy’. Low dose brachytherapy is generally used for intermediate risk cancers and involves day surgery to plant small titanium ‘seeds’ containing radioactive fluid inside your body. These pellets release radiation into the prostate and surrounding area for up to three months, killing off cancer cells.

The higher dose version of brachytherapy, for more advanced and aggressive cancers, involves inserting a needle into the prostate to deliver a direct burst of radiation. You may receive the second form of radiotherapy, ‘external beam radiation’, at the same time. This dual attack increases the chances of obliterating the cancer.

Side effects

Brachytherapy can result in:

  • swelling of the prostate, resulting in reduced flow when urinating
  • minor stinging during urination
  • loose bowel motions
  • difficulty gaining and maintaining erections due to erectile nerve damage. (Your age and erectile capacity before treatment may be a factor here.)

External treatment

In external beam radiation, specialists use medical scans and imaging to pinpoint your cancer-affected areas for treatment with, as you may have guessed, a beam of radiation. This method typically involves about 40 small bursts of radiation, applied five days a week for up to 10 weeks. Each dose takes about an hour, from arrival to exit. Depending on your particular cancer, a higher dose of radiation over a shorter timeframe may be the recommended approach.

Most men tolerate external beam radiation well but side effects can include:

  • minor stinging during urination
  • loose bowel motions
  • feeling tired and mentally ‘flat’, due to the demanding treatment timetable.

Your Radiation Oncologist may recommend hormone therapy takes place at the same time as radiotherapy. You can read about this form of treatment here.

How can TrueNTH help?

Experienced TrueNTH Care Coordinators set you up with practical advice aimed at maintaining your quality of life during and after treatment. We have an excellent online tool to assist you in making decisions and we liaise with healthcare professionals on your behalf to ensure all your questions are answered. We also put you in touch with experts to keep an eye on what you’re eating and help you stay physically active. And we provide understanding people to talk to about everything from what’s worrying you to how to handle changes to your sex life.

If you’d like us to lend you a hand, please call us on 1300 878 368.