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How Does Prostate Radiation Work

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Understanding The Anatomy Of The Prostate

How Does Prostate Cancer Work?

Despite its importance, the prostate gland in an adult man is only about the size and shape of a walnut and weighs less than 1 ounce .

It is located below the bladder, above the pelvic floor muscles, and in front of the rectum.

The prostate reaches its mature size during puberty and will keep its walnut size until the man is in his late forties or early fifties. After this age, it slowly begins to enlarge.

The prostate, which surrounds the urethra, is made up of glandular, stromal tissue, and smooth muscles fused within a capsule.

Though the prostate gland is often referenced as a singular entity, it is actually made up of a number of tubular or saclike glands that secrete fluids into the urethra through the ejaculatory ducts.

The prostate is divided into three histologically and anatomically separate glandular areas: The transition zone, the central zone, and the peripheral zone.

Transition Zone This surrounds the part of the urethra that passes through the prostate . This zone only represents about 5 percent of the gland, but is the primary origination of benign prostatic hyperplasia, or enlarged prostate. That is, the transition zone is the region of the prostate that grows as men age.

Central Zone Making up quarter of the prostate, this area surrounds the transition zone, as well as the ejaculatory ducts that stretch from the seminal vesicles which produces the majority of the fluid of semen to the prostatic region of the urethra.

Coping With Infertility After Prostate Surgery

The prostate is one of the only organs in a males body that never stops growing. This growth is slow and continual throughout your life and many doctors dont fully understand why it happens. In some instances, the prostate grows larger than your body can accommodate, and the result is benign prostatic hyperplasia or enlarged prostate. While this isnt life threatening, it can lead to an array of uncomfortable symptoms. There are treatment options for benign prostatic hyperplasia, with the most invasive being surgery. Some men will also develop prostate cancer during their lives. While prostate cancer has one of the highest curability rates, it needs to be diagnosed early so that surgery can eradicate the cancer completely. Regardless of why you need prostate surgery, certain instances can lead to problems such as infertility. In this article, well explore everything you need to know about the prostate and how to cope with infertility after prostate surgery.

What Are The Side Effects Of Hormone Therapy For Prostate Cancer

Because androgens affect many other organs besides the prostate, ADT can have a wide range of side effects , including:

  • loss of interest in sex
  • Studer UE, Whelan P, Albrecht W, et al. Immediate or deferred androgen deprivation for patients with prostate cancer not suitable for local treatment with curative intent: European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer Trial 30891. Journal of Clinical Oncology 2006 24:18681876.

  • Zelefsky MJ, Eastham JA, Sartor AO. Castration-Resistant Prostate Cancer. In: Vincent T. DeVita J, Lawrence TS, Rosenberg SA, eds. DeVita, Hellman, and Rosenberg’s Cancer: Principles & Practice of Oncology, 9e. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins 2011.

  • Smith MR, Saad F, Chowdhury S, et al. Apalutamide and overall survival in prostate cancer. European Urology 2021 79:150158.

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    How Does Hormone Therapy Work Against Prostate Cancer

    Early in their development, prostate cancers need androgens to grow. Hormone therapies, which are treatments that decrease androgen levels or block androgen action, can inhibit the growth of such prostate cancers, which are therefore called castration sensitive, androgen dependent, or androgen sensitive.

    Most prostate cancers eventually stop responding to hormone therapy and become castration resistant. That is, they continue to grow even when androgen levels in the body are extremely low or undetectable. In the past, these tumors were also called hormone resistant, androgen independent, or hormone refractory however, these terms are rarely used now because the tumors are not truly independent of androgens for their growth. In fact, some newer hormone therapies have become available that can be used to treat tumors that have become castration resistant.

    Good Prostate Cancer Care

    External beam radiation for prostate cancer

    Your MDT will be able to recommend what they feel are the best treatment options, but ultimately the decision is yours.

    You should be able to talk with a named specialist nurse about treatment options and possible side effects to help you make a decision.

    You should also be told about any clinical trials you may be eligible for.

    If you have side effects from treatment, you should be referred to specialist services to help stop or ease these side effects.

    Also Check: How Effective Is Chemotherapy For Prostate Cancer

    Possible Risks And Side Effects Of Brachytherapy

    Radiation precautions: If you get permanent brachytherapy, the seeds will give off small amounts of radiation for several weeks or months. Even though the radiation doesnt travel far, your doctor may advise you to stay away from pregnant women and small children during this time. If you plan on traveling, you might want to get a doctors note regarding your treatment, as low levels of radiation can sometimes be picked up by detection systems at airports.

    There’s also a small risk that some of the seeds might move . You may be asked to strain your urine for the first week or so to catch any seeds that might come out. You may be asked to take other precautions as well, such as wearing a condom during sex. Be sure to follow any instructions your doctor gives you. There have also been reports of the seeds moving through the bloodstream to other parts of the body, such as the lungs. As far as doctors can tell, this is uncommon and doesnt seem to cause any ill effects.

    These precautions arent needed after HDR brachytherapy, because the radiation doesnt stay in the body after treatment.

    Bowel problems: Brachytherapy can sometimes irritate the rectum and cause a condition called radiation proctitis. Bowel problems such as rectal pain, burning, and/or diarrhea can occur, but serious long-term problems are uncommon.

    To learn more, see the Radiation Therapy section of our website.

    Short Term Side Effects

    Patients who receive any type of radiation therapy to treat their prostate cancer can have side effects. Short term side effects are ones that start during or shortly after your radiation treatment. Below is a list of possible short term side effects. Treatments can affect each patient differently, and you may not have these particular side effects. Talk with your care team about what you can expect from your treatment

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    What Are The Results Of Radioactive Seed Implant Procedures

    The success rate depends on the risk category of the prostate cancer and the type of success thats being measured. The most common measurement is related to prostate-specific antigen assessments after treatment. Grading is done with a system called the Gleason score. Using this method, the five-year success rates for the various risk groups are:

    • Low-risk = 95%.
    • Intermediate-risk = 90%.
    • High-risk = 74%.

    It is important to know that these numbers are heavily dependent on how frequently the PSA test is drawn after therapy. PSA tests should be done every six months after therapy. In reports of similar rates from other sources, one must make sure that the PSA tests are being drawn at least this frequently or a comparison cant be made.

    What Are The Side Effects Of External Beam Radiation Therapy

    Radiation therapy for prostate cancer: What to expect

    As with most prostate cancer treatments, external beam radiation therapy can also cause side effects. The severity can depend on the type of radiation, dose size, length of treatment and area of treatments. These frequently include:

    • Skin irritation
    • Erectile dysfunction
    • Secondary malignancy

    If you are considering prostate cancer treatment with a form of EBRT, talk with your radiation oncologist to discuss options, potential side effects, and how those side effects will be managed.

    Recently, the FDA approved the use of Space OAR, a hydrogel product for men choosing radiation therapy that can reduce the radiation received by the rectum during treatment. This can help decrease the chances of developing rectal complications such as the inability to control your bowels. The hydrogel is injected between the prostate and rectum where the gel solidifies and creates a space before radiation begins. To learn more about this product, visit the manufacturers site here.

    Also Check: What Is Perineural Invasion In Prostate Cancer

    What Side Effects Will I Have

    During your treatment, radiation must pass through your skin. You may notice some skin changes in the area exposed to radiation. Your skin may become red, swollen, warm, and sensitive, as if you have a sunburn. It may peel or become moist and tender. Depending on the dose of radiation you receive, you may notice a loss of hair or decreased perspiration within the treated area.

    These skin reactions are common and temporary. They will subside gradually within four to six weeks of completing treatment. If skin changes appear outside the treated area, inform your doctor or primary nurse.

    Long-term side effects, which can last up to a year or longer after treatment, may include a slight darkening of the skin, enlarged pores, increased or decreased sensitivity of the skin, and a thickening of tissue or skin.

    Another possible side effect is erectile dysfunction and urinary symptoms such as frequency, bleeding, or, rarely, incontinence. Keep these side effects in mind when considering your treatment options. If you have any concerns, don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor about them.

    Diarrhea Flatulence Or Painful Defecation

    These symptoms usually occur after the second or third week of treatment. Symptoms will resolve after the treatment ends. During radiation, dietary modification usually helps reduce the frequency and severity of diarrhea. Try to avoid or reduce fried foods, greasy foods and highly spiced foods. Reduce foods with insoluble fiber, such as lettuce and cauliflower, and increase low-fiber and soluable-fiber foods, such as bananas, mashed potatoes, applesauce, white rice, canned or cooked fruits and vegetables.

    Maintain your intake of lean proteins, such as turkey, chicken and fish, and increase your fluid intake to avoid dehydration. Using moist toilet paper, baby wipes or sitz baths may help relieve rectal irritation. Your doctor may recommend anti-diarrheal medications. Contact your doctor if you see blood in your stool, if the diarrhea worsens or if you become light-headed or dizzy.

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    Image Guided Radiation Therapy

    In this type of radiation therapy, CT scans are taken both during the planning process and just before treatment begins. Comparing the two images allows doctors to adjust treatment as needed, since tumors can move between treatments. This allows precision targeting of the cancer while avoiding nearby healthy tissue.

    In some cases, doctors will implant a tiny marker in or near the tumor to pinpoint it for IGRT to account for organ/tumor motion even if the body is immobilized.

    Calypso is another form of IGRT where the prostate can be tracked during the treatment.

    When Is Brachytherapy Alone The Right Choice

    Using Radiotherapy to Treat Prostate Cancer

    For a patient with disease that is confined to the prostate and not too aggressive, brachytherapy alone is a good option. With the use of sophisticated real-time computer-based planning, we can use brachytherapy to deliver radiation in an extraordinarily precise way, with minimal exposure to the surrounding normal tissues. It is also convenient for the patient as it is done in an outpatient setting and most people are able to get back to work the next day.

    But brachytherapy is not right for everyone. For some patients with less-aggressive disease, a watch-and-wait approach would also be very reasonable. At MSK, our philosophy is that when the disease is caught very early meaning a low PSA level, or nonaggressive disease as reflected by a Gleason score of 6 with evidence of cancer in only a few of the biopsy samples and no evidence from the MRI of a significant amount of disease then it would be very appropriate to do active surveillance and hold off on treatment.

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    Why Is There Increasing Concern At This Time Regarding Erectile Dysfunction Issues Following Radical Prostatectomy

    The reality of the recovery process after radical prostatectomy today is that erectile function recovery lags behind functional recovery in other areas. Patients are understandably concerned about this issue and, following months of erectile dysfunction, become skeptical of reassurances that their potency will return.

    Are There Any Surgical Techniques That Have Been Developed To Improve Erectile Function Outcomes

    At this time, there are several different surgical approaches to carry out the surgery, including retropubic or perineal approaches as well as laparoscopic procedures with freehand or robotic instrumentation. Much debate but no consensus exists about the advantages and disadvantages of the different approaches. Further study is needed before obtaining meaningful determinations of the success with different new approaches.

    Recommended Reading: Does An Enlarged Prostate Affect A Man Sexually

    Pde5 Inhibitors: Viagra Levitra And Cialis

    Approved by the FDA in 1998, sildenafil revolutionized the way we think about and treat erectile dysfunction, largely because it is so easy to use and effective. Since then the FDA has approved three closely related drugs, vardenafil , avanafil and tadalafil .

    All four drugs work in a similar fashion, by affecting the normal physiology of the penis. In particular, they block PDE5, an enzyme that breaks down the erection-producing chemical cyclic guanosine monophosphate. This enables the penis to fill with blood and to stay erect long enough for intercourse. Of course, its important to realize that none of these drugs is an aphrodisiac. Youve got to feel sexually stimulated in order for them to work.

    The main differences between the drugs have to do with timing: how quickly they begin to work, and how long their effects last . Levitra may start working slightly faster than Viagra although the FDA says that like Viagra, it should be taken about an hour before sexual activity. Some studies suggest that Levitra may help some men who dont respond to Viagra. And while some doctors are skeptical about this claim, theres no harm in trying Levitra or Cialis if Viagra doesnt work for you.

    Cialis has also been approved to treat men with both erectile dysfunction and BPH. The dose is lower, usually 5 milligrams per day.

    Is It Possible To Get Prostate Cancer Back After Radiation

    How does proton radiation therapy work?

    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.

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    What Happens During The Radioactive Seed Implant Procedure

    The entire procedure takes about 90 minutes. Most patients go home the same day.

    A radiation oncologist and urologist perform the procedure. Both doctors are actively involved in all aspects of the implantation, from the planning to the post-operative care. During the procedure, the urologist provides ultrasound guidance and the radiation oncologist places the radioactive seeds. The prostate ultrasound and treatment planning are both done at the same time as implantation of the radioactive seeds.

    The procedure

    Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy

    This technique uses advanced image guided techniques to deliver large doses of radiation to a precise area, such as the prostate. Because there are large doses of radiation in each dose, the entire course of treatment is given over just a few days.

    SBRT is often known by the names of the machines that deliver the radiation, such as Gamma Knife®, X-Knife®, CyberKnife®, and Clinac®.

    The main advantage of SBRT over IMRT is that the treatment takes less time . The side effects, though, are not better. In fact, some research has shown that some side effects might actually be worse with SBRT than with IMRT.

    Also Check: Does Enlarged Prostate Affect Ejaculation

    What Is The Radioactive Seed Implant Procedure

    Permanent radioactive seed implants are a form of radiation therapy for prostate cancer. The terms “brachytherapy” or “internal radiation therapy” might also be used to describe this procedure.

    During the procedure, radioactive seeds are implanted into the prostate gland using ultrasound guidance. The number of seeds and where theyre placed is determined by a computer-generated treatment plan tailored for each patient. About 100 seeds are commonly implanted.

    The implants remain in place permanently, and become biologically inert after about 10 months. This technique allows a high dose of radiation to be delivered to the prostate with limited damage to surrounding tissues.

    Radioactive seed implants are an outpatient procedure. Compared to external radiation which requires up to seven to seven-and-a-half weeks of daily treatments convenience is a major advantage of this treatment option.

    Can A Man Have A Child After Prostate Cancer Treatment

    Proton Therapy Procedure Description

    Modern radiation techniques are designed to limit this exposure, but it is not always possible to prevent all exposure and still achieve the desired outcomes. Most men will be sterile after radiation treatment for prostate cancer. Talk to your oncology team about sperm banking if you wish to father a child in the future.

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    Will Radiation Therapy Make Me Tired

    Everyone have their own energy level, so radiation treatment will affect each person differently. Patients often feel fatigue after several weeks of treatment. For most patients, this fatigue is mild. However, a loss of energy may require some patients to change their daily routine.

    If your doctor thinks you should limit your activity, they will discuss it with you.

    To minimize fatigue while you are receiving radiation treatment:

    • Be sure to get enough rest.
    • Eat well-balanced, nutritious meals.
    • Pace your activities and plan frequent rest periods.

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