What Happens To The Prostate After Radiation
The entire prostate gland is radiated when we treat the cancer. The prostate normally produces some of the fluid in the ejaculation. Radiation therapy has the side effect of damaging the glands in the prostate, so a lot less fluid is produced. The ejaculation may be dry or nearly dry. In addition, you will probably be sterile after radiation, but this is not 100% guaranteed and should not be relied upon as a form of birth control. You can still usually have erections because the nerves and blood vessels that go to the penis are not as damaged as the prostate gland.
The prostate gland will end up having a lot of scar tissue. It will shrink in size to about half its original weight within a couple years after finishing radiation. The urethra passes through the canter of the prostate gland like the hole of a doughnut. Sometimes this passage can widen, other times it can shrink after radiation. In summary, the prostate gland is heavily damaged from radiation and does not work normally afterwards.
How Soon Can We Detect This
One of the main advantages of surgery over radiotherapy for prostate cancer is that following prostate removal, the PSA should be very low , which we can of course detect with blood tests. If metastasis occurs, because the metastatic cells originated in the prostate and therefore make PSA, the PSA level in the blood starts to rise. Once it has reached a given threshold additional or salvage treatment will be discussed.
A PSA level of more than 0.2 ng/ml defines biochemical recurrence. At this stage the cancer is still much too small to be seen on scanning. If it can be seen on a scan it is termed clinical recurrence, which generally does not occur until the PSA level is more than 0.5 ng/ml. Symptoms, such as bone pain, dont usually occur until the PSA is more than 20 ng/ml.
What Is Advanced Prostate Cancer
When prostate cancer spreads beyond the prostate or returns after treatment, it is often called advanced prostate cancer.
Prostate cancer is often grouped into four stages.
- Stages I & II: The tumor has not spread beyond the prostate. This is often called early stage or localized prostate cancer.
- Stage III: Cancer has spread outside the prostate, but only to nearby tissues. This is often called locally advanced prostate cancer.
- Stage IV: Cancer has spread outside the prostate to other parts such as the lymph nodes, bones, liver or lungs. This stage is often called advanced prostate cancer.
When an early stage prostate cancer is found, it may be treated or placed on surveillance . If prostate cancer spreads beyond the prostate or returns after treatment, it is often called advanced prostate cancer. Stage IV prostate cancer is not curable, but there are many ways to control it. Treatment can stop advanced prostate cancer from growing and causing symptoms.
There are several types of advanced prostate cancer, including:
If your Prostate Specific Antigen level has risen after the first treatment but you have no other signs of cancer, you have “biochemical recurrence.”
Castration-Resistant Prostate Cancer
Non-Metastatic Castration-Resistant Prostate Cancer
Metastatic Prostate Cancer
- Lymph nodes outside the pelvis
- Other organs
Metastatic Hormone-Sensitive Prostate Cancer
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What Will I Learn By Reading This
When you have treatment for your prostate cancer, you may have erectile dysfunction also known as impotence. Erectile dysfunction is a very common side effect . Side effects from prostate cancer treatment are different from one man to the next. They may also be different from one treatment to the next. Some men have no erectile dysfunction. The good news is that there are ways to deal with erectile dysfunction. In this booklet you will learn:
- What erectile dysfunction is
- Why prostate cancer treatment can cause erectile dysfunction
- What can be done about erectile dysfunction
- How erectile dysfunction may affect your sex life
- What your partner can expect
It is important for you to learn how to deal with erectile dysfunction so that you can continue to have a satisfying intimate relationship.
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Understanding The Recurrent Prostate Cancer
Recurrent prostate cancer is when prostate cancer returns after the initial treatment or partial to complete remission has occurred. This is due to the reemergence of surviving prostate cancer cells that have grown large enough to be detected.
Following a prostatectomy, your prostate-specific antigen levels being to decrease. Eventually, they are no longer detectible, which is an indication that prostate cancer is no longer present. However, there is no clear reference for a normal PSA. It differs between men and can be affected by a number of factors. Following your initial prostate cancer treatment, PSA levels should stabilize and be low enough to where theyre not detected on blood tests. In some cases, PSA levels begin to rise again, indicating a need for further tests.
Even if youve had a prostatectomy, prostate cancer can recur in the immediately surrounding tissue, lymph nodes, seminal vesicles, muscles that control urination, the rectum, the wall of the pelvic, or metastasize into lymph nodes and bones further away.
Chances Prostate Cancer Will Recur
Overall, a man who has undergone prostatectomy for localized prostate cancer has a 10 to 30 percent chance of experiencing prostate cancer recurrence during his lifetime. Among these cases of recurrence, about half happen during the first three years after prostatectomy, another 30 percent occur from years 3 to 5 post-prostatectomy, and about 19 percent happen after year 5. Some experts say the figure of recurrence is even higher.
How Common Is Recurrence
The recurrence of prostate cancer depends on when it was caught and treated the first time. If your doctor was able to remove the cancer while it was still confined in the prostate gland, your chances of recurrence are fairly low. If your cancer spread before treatment, such as in the case of about 10% of men, recurrence is more likely to occur. Recurrence, therefore, occurs if not all of the cancer cells were treated the first time or if the cancer was more advanced than originally believed.
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What Is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy And What Advantages Does It Offer
Traditionally, we deliver external beam radiation in 45 to 48 sessions over a span of ten weeks, using very sophisticated computer-based planning and enhanced imaging techniques and tumor tracking during the treatment. This is called image-guided IMRT and it is the current standard of care.
But there is increasing interest in giving this radiation in shorter courses of treatment. Many of the people we care for have a type of radiation therapy called MSK PreciseTM. MSK Precise is a form of SBRT that can be given in five sessions instead of the usual 45 to 50. MSK has been doing this for the past nine years, and the results in the several hundred people whove been treated have been excellent so far. The treatment is very well tolerated, with outcomes that are at least equivalent to and possibly better than the standard ten weeks of treatment. Because of its superior precision, MSK Precise has less side effects than more conventional radiation techniques, with extremely low rates of incontinence and rectal problems. The sexual side effects are low and similar to what is experienced with conventional external radiation techniques. And of course, its much more convenient for patients.
For patients with more-advanced tumors, we are completing a phase II trial in which were combining sophisticated brachytherapy approaches with MSK Precise. This kind of combination of dose-intense or escalated radiation may end up being a very effective regimen.
Cancer That Is Thought To Still Be In Or Around The Prostate
If the cancer is still thought to be just in the area of the prostate, a second attempt to cure it might be possible.
After radiation therapy: If your first treatment was radiation, treatment options might include cryotherapy or radical prostatectomy, but when these treatments are done after radiation, they carry a higher risk for side effects such as incontinence. Having radiation therapy again is usually not an option because of the increased potential for serious side effects, although in some cases brachytherapy may be an option as a second treatment after external radiation.
Sometimes it might not be clear exactly where the remaining cancer is in the body. If the only sign of cancer recurrence is a rising PSA level , another option for some men might be active surveillance instead of active treatment. Prostate cancer often grows slowly, so even if it does come back, it might not cause problems for many years, at which time further treatment could then be considered.
Factors such as how quickly the PSA is going up and the original Gleason score of the cancer can help predict how soon the cancer might show up in distant parts of the body and cause problems. If the PSA is going up very quickly, some doctors might recommend that you start treatment even before the cancer can be seen on tests or causes symptoms.
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Staging Of Prostate Cancer
Doctors will use the results of your prostate examination, biopsy and scans to identify the “stage” of your prostate cancer .
The stage of the cancer will determine which types of treatments will be necessary.
If prostate cancer is diagnosed at an early stage, the chances of survival are generally good.
My Takeaways From This Article
Im not a doctor or a medical services provider, just an eleven-year prostate cancer survivor, so the following comments are just my opinion and should be considered as such.
I read in the article that between 15-40% of men who undergo a radical prostatectomy for localized prostate cancer will experience a recurrence of the disease. This reinforces for me the absolute criticality of detecting prostate cancer at the earliest possible stage. That means beginning an annual prostate cancer screening program at age 35 and personally tracking any changes from one year to the next.
Secondly, its just as critical to know if you have an aggressive form of prostate cancer. Your pathologist will play a critical role here, because the pathologist dissects the prostate tissue following surgery and gives the prostate cancer a Gleason grade, showing how advanced it is.
This article suggests that men diagnosed with aggressive prostate cancer should go through a course of radiation treatment. I cant comment medically on that suggestion, but this seems to me to be a logical course of action. I was not given localized radiation therapy following my surgery nor was it even mentioned. At 13 years since surgery my PSA remains at .04 .06, so perhaps Im in the non-recurrence bucket but maybe not. One never knows. I wish I had been advised about other additional treatment options following my surgery.
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New Treatments And Technology Breakthroughs
Both local and distant recurrences can be treated with a new technology known as CyberKnife.
It gives patients a safe and effective alternative to other therapies with little to no side effects.
Many patients who had undergone radiation treatments before cannot have another round due to increased risk of severe side effects.
CyberKnife is non-invasive, has fewer treatment sessions, and is more comfortable than traditional radiation.
Among the most important benefits of CyberKnife, there is little risk of causing:
- Lowered sex drive
In addition, CyberKnife is able to treat hard to reach or inoperable distant tumors.
If your prostate cancer comes back, you now have a new treatment that is not only effective but safer and has less side effects.
Contact Central Wyoming Urological Associates at if you would like more information about CyberKnife for prostate cancer recurrence.
Follow Up Treatment For Recurrent Prostate Cancer
When diagnosed with recurrent prostate cancer, its important to begin treatment as soon as possible. If you did not have a prostatectomy before, your doctor will likely recommend one now. This is important as recurrent prostate cancer is more aggressive and can result in the cancer spreading to lymph nodes and bone if not addressed quickly. In certain cases, when the only sign of recurrent cancer is an increased PSA level, your doctor may recommend a combination of radiation therapy, hormone therapy, chemotherapy, or a combination of treatment efforts.
If your prostate cancer has returned after undergoing hormone therapy, your body may no longer be responding to the hormones. If this is the case, it means one of two situations:
- Castrate-Resistant Prostate Cancer this is when your prostate cancer is still growing, regardless of the effect of hormone therapy on testosterone. CRPC may still respond to other types of hormone therapy.
- Hormone-Refractory Prostate Cancer this is when the prostate cancer is no longer able to be helped by any form of hormone therapy.
Regardless of if youve been diagnosed with prostate cancer, are experiencing recurrent prostate cancer, or are simply trying to take better care of your urologic care, working with a trusted urologist is essential. Always follow your doctors recommendations and dont hesitate to ask any questions you may have. During your treatment plan, along the way.
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How Common Is Recurrence Of Prostate Cancer
According to the American Cancer Society, nearly 100% of men with low- to intermediate-grade prostate cancer can expect to live at least five years after the initial diagnosis. Since many men who get prostate cancer are already elderly, they are more likely to die from causes other than the cancer.
More than 90% of the time prostate cancer is discovered while it is either confined to the prostate gland or has spread beyond the prostate only to a small degree, referred to as regional spread.
Among the less than 10% of men whose prostate cancers have already spread to distant parts of the body at the time of diagnosis, about 30% are expected to survive at least five years.
Treatment By Stage Of Prostate Cancer
Different treatments may be recommended for each stage of prostate cancer. Your doctor will recommend a specific treatment plan for you based on the cancers stage and other factors. Detailed descriptions of each type of treatment are provided earlier on this same page. Clinical trials may also be a treatment option for each stage.
Early-stage prostate cancer
Early-stage prostate cancer usually grows very slowly and may take years to cause any symptoms or other health problems, if it ever does at all. As a result, active surveillance or watchful waiting may be recommended. Radiation therapy or surgery may also be suggested, as well as treatment in clinical trials. For those with a higher Gleason score, the cancer may be faster growing, so radical prostatectomy and radiation therapy are often recommended. Your doctor will consider your age and general health before recommending a treatment plan.
ASCO, the American Urological Association, American Society of Radiation Oncology, and the Society of Urologic Oncology recommend that patients with high-risk early-stage prostate cancer that has not spread to other areas of the body should receive radical prostatectomy or radiation therapy with hormonal therapy as standard treatment options.
Locally advanced prostate cancer
Watchful waiting may be considered for older adults who are not expected to live for a long time and whose cancer is not causing symptoms or for those who have another, more serious illness.
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Additional Treatment After Surgery
Additional treatment can come with one of two approaches: treatment given as adjuvant therapy , or as salvage therapy . In the modern era, most additional treatment is given as salvage therapy because firstly this spares unnecessary treatment for men who would never experience recurrence, and secondly because the success rates of the two approaches appear to be the same.
Regardless of whether an adjuvant or salvage therapy approach is taken, the main treatment options following biochemical recurrence are:
- Radiotherapy this is the commonest approach. Because scans dont show metastatic deposits until the PSA is more than 0.5 ng/ml and because radiotherapy is more effective when given before this level is reached, the radiotherapy energy is delivered to the prostate bed. This is because we know that this is the commonest site of recurrence in most men, and that 80% of men treated in this way will be cured.
- Active surveillance this is appropriate for a very slowly-rising PSA in an elderly patient who has no symptoms.
- Hormonal therapy in many ways this is the least appealing option as it causes symptoms but does not cure anyone, although it does control the recurrence and lower the PSA.
Can You Get Erections After Prostate Cancer Treatment
If you have ever wondered whether you’ll be able to have an erection after prostate cancer treatment, you are not alone. Many men who are facing a prostate cancer diagnosis, or who have undergone prostate cancer treatment, are worried about whether or not they will be able to have an erection after prostate cancer.
What The Research Shows About Radiation Vs Surgery
The ProtecT trial was a 10-year, randomized clinical study designed to compare radical prostatectomy, external-beam radiotherapy and active surveillance for the treatment of localized prostate cancer.
The results, published in 2016, showed that the rate of disease progression among men assigned to radiotherapy or radical prostatectomy was less than half the rate among men assigned to active monitoring. However, there was no significant difference in survival at the median 10-year mark for radiation therapy, surgery or active surveillance.
If youre interested in directly comparing treatment outcomes by treatment method and risk group , the Prostate Cancer Free Foundation provides an interactive graph on its website with information from data obtained from over 100,000 prostate cancer patients over a 15-year period.
As discussed earlier in the sections on the side effects of radiation therapy and surgery, the researchers conducting the ProtecT trial also looked at side effects and quality-of-life issues and found that the three major side effects of these two treatment options that affect quality of life after prostate cancer treatment are urinary incontinence, sexual dysfunction and bowel health.
The trial found that urinary leakage and erectile dysfunction were more common after surgery than after radiation therapy. Gastrointestinal bowel problems were more common after radiation therapy.
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