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Prostate External Beam Radiation Side Effects

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How Will I Know That My Hormone Therapy Is Working

External Beam Radiation Therapy for Prostate Cancer

Doctors cannot predict how long hormone therapy will be effective in suppressing the growth of any individual mans prostate cancer. Therefore, men who take hormone therapy for more than a few months are regularly tested to determine the level of PSA in their blood. An increase in PSA level may indicate that a mans cancer has started growing again. A PSA level that continues to increase while hormone therapy is successfully keeping androgen levels extremely low is an indicator that a mans prostate cancer has become resistant to the hormone therapy that is currently being used.

Proton Beam Radiation Therapy

Proton beam therapy focuses beams of protons instead of x-rays on the cancer. Unlike x-rays, which release energy both before and after they hit their target, protons cause little damage to tissues they pass through and release their energy only after traveling a certain distance. This means that proton beam radiation can, in theory, deliver more radiation to the prostate while doing less damage to nearby normal tissues. Proton beam radiation can be aimed with techniques similar to 3D-CRT and IMRT.

Although in theory proton beam therapy might be more effective than using x-rays, so far studies have not shown if this is true. Right now, proton beam therapy is not widely available. The machines needed to make protons are very expensive, and they arent available in many centers in the United States. Proton beam radiation might not be covered by all insurance companies at this time.

How Long Doestreatment Last

The radiation oncologist will make a plan with you to determine how many treatments you need and how often you’ll need them.

  • For some men, the radiation therapy plan is given 5 days per week, usually Monday to Friday, with weekends/holidays off to rest. Each treatment is non-invasive and is typically scheduled for 15 to 20 minutes . This schedule can go on for 4 to 8 weeks.

  • You should be able to go home after each session. You will usually have up to 20 sessions, so the schedule is around 4 weeks but it can go for up to 8 weeks. During treatment you will regularly be reviewed by your treatment team.

  • A newer type of external beam treatment, called stereotactic body radiation therapy , can be even shorter and is given every other day or once a week. SBRT is available at a growing number of cancer centres. Speak to your doctor to find out more on this.

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How Prostate Cancer Staging And Risk Stratification Affect Treatment Options

Your treatment choices are determined by several factors, including your cancers stage, aggressiveness and assigned risk stratification . Your age and current general health condition may also affect your choices.

Prostate cancer staging

Prostate cancer staging determines whether the cancer is confined to the prostate gland or whether theres evidence of metastasis, meaning its spread to other areas of the body.

Tools and methods to determine staging may include the prostate-specific antigen test, the digital rectal examination , the Gleason score and the American Joint Committee on Cancer TNM system, which provides information on the tumor, lymph node involvement and metastasis of a cancer. Imaging tests, such as a PET/CT scan, may also help determine your cancers stage.

The four stages of prostate cancer are subdivided into more precise categories, but we generally refer to three groups that indicate how far the cancer has spread:

Localized, meaning theres no indication that the cancer has spread beyond the prostate

Regional, meaning theres evidence of cancer cells in nearby lymph nodes or tissue

Distant, meaning theres evidence the cancer has spread to other organs or body parts farther from the prostate

Almost 90 percent of prostate cancers are diagnosed at the localized or regional stage. The five-year relative survival rate for men diagnosed with prostate cancer at these stages is nearly 100 percent.

Prostate cancer risk assessment

Who Can Have Radiotherapy

Side Effects From Radiation For Prostate Cancer

The treatment is suitable if your prostate cancer is found only within your prostate gland or has spread just outside it to the pelvic lymph nodes.

Radiotherapy and hormone therapy are often used together to treat locally advanced prostate cancer. This helps to make the radiotherapy work better at controlling your prostate cancer.

It may not be the best option if you have urinary symptoms, as it may make them worse.

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Radiopharmaceuticals That Target Psma

Prostate-specific membrane antigen is a protein that is often found in large amounts on prostate cancer cells.

Lutetium Lu 177 vipivotide tetraxetan is a radiopharmaceutical that attaches to PSMA, bringing radiation directly to the prostate cancer cells.

This drug can be used to treat prostate cancer that has spread and that has already been treated with hormone therapy and chemotherapy. The cancer cells must also have the PSMA protein. Your doctor will order a PSMA PET scan before you get this drug to make sure the cancer cells have PSMA.

This drug is given as an injection or infusion into a vein , typically once every 6 weeks for up to 6 doses.

Possible side effects

Some of the more common side effects of this drug include:

  • Feeling tired
  • Constipation

This drug can lower blood cell counts:

  • A low red blood cell count can cause tiredness, weakness, pale skin, or shortness of breath.
  • A low blood platelet count can lead to bleeding or bruising more easily than normal, or bleeding that is hard to stop.
  • A low white blood cell count can lead to an increased risk of infections, which might show as a fever, chills, sore throat, or mouth sores.

This drug might damage the kidneys. Your doctor or nurse will likely advise you to drink plenty of fluids and to urinate often before and after getting this drug, to help protect the kidneys. Tell your doctor or nurse if you start to pass less urine than is normal for you.

What Is A Radiation Oncologist

If a patient is undergoing radiation, the cancer treatment plan may be managed by a radiation oncologist who carefully monitors the persons overall health and well-being through the process.

With advanced cancer, a patient may also be referred to a medical oncologist. This specialized doctor uses medicines such as chemotherapy and hormone therapy to treat cancers. Its common for several medical specialists to work together on a treatment plantheyre known as a cancer care team.

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What To Expect After Radiation Therapy For Prostate Cancer

Patients who receive radiation therapy for prostate cancer may experience a wide range of short-term and long-term side effects. And side effects may vary widely from patient to patient depending on a variety of factors, including the extent of the disease and the patients overall health. For instance, some patients may need a urinary catheter to help empty the bladder. Other patients may experience sexual side effects.

At CTCA, our trained supportive care providers work closely with you and your doctors to determine how best to address radiation therapy side effects. Services may include:

  • Pelvic floor therapy

Sore Skin In The Treatment Area

What are the common side effects of external beam radiation therapy for prostate cancer?

Your skin in the treatment area might get sore, or redden or darken. Following these tips can help with this:

  • Wear loose fitting underwear and clothes. Natural fibres can be more comfortable than man-made fibres.
  • Gently wash the area each day. Use mild, unperfumed soap and warm or cool water. Try baby soap or liquid baby wash but check with the radiotherapy staff first.
  • Gently pat the skin dry with a soft towel. Rubbing the skin can make it sore.
  • Don’t use perfumed lotions on the area. Use only creams or dressings recommended by your specialist or radiographer.
  • Don’t use talcum powder because it can contain tiny metal particles. The particles can make the soreness worse.

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How Long Do Side Effects Last

Remember that the type of radiation side effects you might have depends on the prescribed dose and schedule. Most side effects go away within a few months of ending treatment. Some side effects may continue after treatment ends because it takes time for the healthy cells to recover from radiation.

Side effects might limit your ability to do some things. What you can do will depend on how you feel. Some patients are able to go to work or enjoy leisure activities while they get radiation therapy. Others find they need more rest than usual and cant do as much. If you have side effects that are bothersome and affecting your daily activities or health, the doctor may stop your treatments for a while, change the schedule, or change the type of treatment youre getting. Tell your cancer care team about any side affects you notice so they can help you with them.

Possible Long Term Side Effects

Most side effects gradually go away in the weeks or months after treatment. But some side effects can continue or might start some months or years later. This includes problems getting an erection.

  • Prostate cancer: diagnosis and managementNational Institute for Health and Care Excellence , 2019. Last updated December 2021

  • Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology VT DeVita, TS Lawrence, SA RosenbergWolters Kluwer, 2019

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What Is Proton Beam Radiation Therapy

This type of therapy treats tumors with protons instead of X-ray radiation. It may be able to deliver more radiation specifically to a prostate cancer tumor with less damage to normal tissue.

Proton beam therapy might be a safe treatment option when a doctor decides that using X-rays could be risky for a patient. But so far, research hasnât shown that it works better than traditional radiation therapy against solid cancers in adults.

The side effects of proton beam therapy are similar to the ones that other types of radiation treatment bring on. But since proton therapy may be less damaging to normal tissue, the side effects might be milder.

After treatment, you may gradually have ones like:

  • Fatigue or low energy
  • Sore, reddened skin around the area where you got treated
  • Hair loss around the treatment spot

One of the disadvantages of proton therapy is that it might not be covered by all insurance companies. Youâd need to check with your health plan to find out.

Proton therapy also isnât widely available. You can get it only at certain centers in the U.S.

British Columbia Specific Information

PPT

Prostate cancer is a cancer of the prostate gland, which is a gland that produces the milky liquid found in semen. Patients with low-risk prostate cancer have a 10-year cancer survival rate of over 99%.

You are considered a low-risk patient if you have a PSA value that is equal or less than 10 nanograms per millilitre , a Gleason score that is equal or less than 6, and your cancer stage is T1c/T2a. PSA is your prostate specific antigen measured by a blood test, the Gleason score indicates how aggressive the cancer is by looking at tissue biopsy results, and the cancer stage describes how much the cancer has spread.

Active surveillance has been developed to allow for careful management of men with low-risk prostate cancer. For more information, visit BC Cancer Agency Prostate.

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Types Of Prostate Surgery

There are several ways of removing the prostate keyhole surgery either by hand or robot-assisted, and open surgery.

Although robot-assisted keyhole surgery is the newest technique, the most recent research suggests all three techniques are as good as each other for treating prostate cancer, as long as the surgeon is experienced. They also have similar rates of side effects.

The advantages of keyhole surgery, both by hand and robot-assisted, are that you are likely to lose less blood, have less pain, spend less time in hospital, and heal more quickly than with open surgery.

Keyhole surgery

Keyhole surgery .

  • Robot-assisted keyhole surgery Your surgeon makes five or six small cuts in your lower abdomen and a slightly bigger cut near your belly button, and removes the prostate using special surgical tools. These include a thin, lighted tube with a small camera on the tip. The image will appear on a screen so the surgeon can see what theyre doing. Your surgeon controls the tools from a console in the operating room via four or five robotic arms. Although its called robot-assisted, its still a surgeon who does the operation. You may hear the equipment called the da Vinci® Robot.
  • Keyhole surgery by hand As with robot-assisted keyhole surgery, the surgeon will make four or five small cuts in your abdomen. But they will hold the surgical tools in their hands, rather than using robotic arms.

Open surgery

To help with symptoms of bowel dysfunction, your healthcare team may recommend:

Which Approach Is Better: Active Surveillance Surgery Or Radiotherapy

The 10 year outcomes of the Prostate Testing for Cancer and Treatment trial from the United Kingdom has provided valuable insights into the management of localized PCa. The trial recruited 1643 men 50 to 69 years old. Of these 545 men underwent active surveillance, 553 surgery, and 545 radiotherapy. For the participants, the median follow-up was 10 years, the median age was 62 years, the median PSA was 4.6 , 77% were Gleason 6 and 21% were Gleason 7, and 76 % were T1c and the remaining T2. There were 17 prostate-cancerspecific deaths overall: 8 in the active surveillance group, 5 in the surgery group, and 4 in the radiotherapy group. The difference was not statistically significant among groups.

Metastases developed in more men in the active-monitoring group than in the surgery group or the radiotherapy group . Higher rates of disease progression were seen in the active-monitoring group than in the surgery group or the radiotherapy group . In summary, at a median of 10 years, prostate-cancerspecific mortality was low irrespective of the treatment assigned, with no significant difference among treatments. Surgery and radiotherapy were associated with lower incidences of disease progression and metastases than was active monitoring, while 44% of the patients who were assigned to active monitoring did not receive radical treatment and avoided side effects.

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Swollen Legs Or Scrotum

You might get swelling in the legs or the sack of skin around the testicles . The swelling is called lymphoedema . It happens when the lymph channels that drain fluid from the legs are damaged by the radiotherapy. The swelling can be uncomfortable.

You can do various things to lower your risk of getting lymphoedema. Early treatment can reduce the swelling and stop it from getting worse.

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Whos Eligible For This Procedure

HDR Brachytherapy Side Effects vs. Other Treatments | Ask a Prostate Expert, Dr. Jeffrey Demanes

Permanent implants are relatively low-energy sources, and therefore have limited tissue penetration. A well-done implant treats the prostate and the surrounding few millimeters of adjacent tissue.

The best candidates for this procedure are patients with a cancer within or near the prostate. Patients with prostate cancer thats invading nearby structures like the bladder or rectum arent appropriate for this technique.

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How Fertility Might Be Affected

For women: Talk to your cancer care team about how radiation might affect your fertility . Its best to do this before starting treatment so you are aware of possible risks to your fertility.

Depending on the radiation dose, women getting radiation therapy in the pelvic area sometimes stop having menstrual periods and have other symptoms of menopause. Report these symptoms to your cancer care and ask them how to relieve these side effects.Sometimes menstrual periods will return when radiation therapy is over, but sometimes they do not.

See Fertility and Women With Cancer to learn more.

For men: Radiation therapy to an area that includes the testicles can reduce both the number of sperm and their ability to function. If you want to father a child in the future and are concerned about reduced fertility, talk to your cancer care team before starting treatment. One option may be to bank your sperm ahead of time.

See Fertility and Men With Cancer to learn more.

Swelling Bruising Or Tenderness Of The Scrotum

Symptoms generally resolve on their own within three to five days. Oral anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen are usually sufficient for pain relief, if necessary. You should avoid hot tubs and Jacuzzis for at least two to three days after the procedure. Postpone bike riding until the tenderness is gone.

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Side Effects Of Radiation For Prostate Cancer

The primary potential side effects of radiation treatment for prostate cancer include bowel problems, urinary problems and sexual function issues.

According to patient-reported outcomes measuring quality of life from men who participated in the 10-year, randomized Prostate Testing for Cancer and Treatment trial, men who were treated with radiation reported little increase in urinary leakage after radiation therapy. They also reported less sexual dysfunction when compared to men who were treated with surgery. However, men treated with radiation reported a higher incidence of bowel problems, such as loose and bloody stools. These side effects are often short-term for most patients, but some experience long-term side effects.

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Will Radiation Therapy Make Me Tired

Current Diagnosis And Management Of Prostate Cancer

Everyone has their own energy level, so radiation treatment will affect each person differently.

People often feel fatigue after several weeks of treatment. For most, this fatigue is mild. But some people lose a lot of energy and need to change their daily routine.

If your doctor thinks you should limit how active you are, theyâll discuss it with you.

To minimize fatigue while youâre receiving radiation treatment:

  • Get enough rest.
  • Pace yourself, and plan rest breaks throughout your day.

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