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Prostate Cancer Treatment (2)

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Radiotherapy

Radiotherapy (Radiation therapy) is a cancer treatment that uses high-energy x-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells.

Newer techniques include conformal radiotherapy (CRT) and high-resolution intensity modulated radiotherapy (IMRT).

Side-effects:

Impotence and urinary problems may occur in men treated with radiation therapy, rates are similar to surgery, but usually occur later. Radiation can damage other organs, particularly the bowel and bladder, although the newer techniques may reduce this risk. Irritation of the bowel is a common side effect that can trouble patients for six months or longer after treatment.


Brachytherapy

Brachytherapy is a newer form of radiation treatment usually most suitable for men with a small, slow growing cancer, especially early prostate cancer. The procedure involves implanting radioactive seeds into, or next to, the tumour in your prostate. Radiation is released slowly over the approximately one year it takes for the seeds lose their radioactivity.

Low Dose Brachytherapy (prostate seed brachytherapy) uses radioactive seeds which are permanently placed within the prostate to kill the tumour. The process does not involve surgery and is done under anaesthetic. A single night in hospital is all that is required. Recovery is normally very quick.

Advantages include:

High Dose Brachytherapy is used for tumours with higher PSA and Gleason scores (i.e. more aggressive ones). It involves placing hollow needles very accurately into the prostate and briefly pumping in, then removing, highly radioactive material to kill the tumour with minimum damage to adjacent tissues and organs. The process is performed under anaesthetic and most men are in hospital for less than two days.

A follow-up procedure involves applying external beam radiation at lower dose over several weeks, and usually is accompanied by a period of hormone therapy. Recovery and treatment advantages are similar to those of brachytherapy treatment with seeds.

Side-effects:

Risk of impotence, urinary incontinence and bowel problems.


Hormone therapy

Hormone therapy used alone can only control, not cure prostate cancer, but it may hold back its growth for several years. Essentially, it blocks the action of male sex hormones that help cancer grow. This can slow the growth and spread of prostate tumours but will not kill the cancer cells. It's usually employed when cancer has spread to other parts of the body.

Medical hormone therapies include:

If your prostate cancer has already spread to other organs or to bone at the time of diagnosis, hormone therapy becomes the primary method of treatment. It will take the form of monthly or three monthly injections and tablets to try to reduce the PSA reading as close as possible to zero. Most advanced prostate cancers respond well to hormone therapy for quite a long time, usually several years.

Side-effects:

These can actually be quite discouraging, taking the form of hot flushes, loss of desire for sex and erections, sweating, mood swings, disturbed sleep, loss of energy and personal motivation, body hair loss, weight gain and breast development or tenderness, and weakened bones.

Next page: New Prostate cancer treatments and techniques


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