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«Radiation Therapy and Prostate Cancer The following information is based on the general experiences of many prostate cancer patients. Your experience ...»

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Radiation Therapy and Prostate Cancer

The following information is based on the general experiences of many prostate cancer patients.

Your experience may be different. If you have any questions about what prostate cancer

treatment services are covered by your health insurance, please contact your health care provider

or health insurance provider.

This education material was made possible by a Grant from the California Department of Justice,

Antitrust Law Section, from litigation settlement funds to benefit Californians diagnosed with cancer or their families.

Please feel free to read only those parts of the booklet you need now. You don’t need to read everything right now. You can always read more later.

Table of Contents What Will I Learn By Reading This Booklet?

What Is Radiation Therapy?

How Is Radiation Therapy Given?

Does Radiation Therapy Hurt?

Can Radiation Therapy Be Used With Other Prostate Cancer Treatments?.... 12 What Is A Radiation Oncologist?

How Does My Radiation Oncologist Plan My Treatment?

What Are The Risks Of Radiation Therapy?

How Long Does Radiation Therapy Take?

External Beam Radiation Therapy

Internal Radiation Therapy

How Can I Help Myself During Radiation Therapy?

Are There Side Effects With Radiation Therapy?

Will Side Effects Limit What I Can Do?

How Might I Feel During Radiation Therapy?

What Does “Follow-up Care” Mean?

What Doctor Will Handle My Follow-up Care?

What Should I Tell My Doctor During My Follow-up Visits?

What Other Care Might I Need After My Radiation Therapy?

How Often Do I Need To Go See My Doctor After My Radiation Therapy Has Ended?

How Can I Help Myself After My RadiationTherapy Is Over?

Hints For Talking With Your Doctor

What Kinds Of Medical Information Should I Keep?

What Have I Learned By Reading This Booklet?

Key Words

What Will I Learn By Reading This Booklet?

You and your doctor may be talking about using radiation therapy to treat your prostate cancer. Deciding on the best treatment for your prostate cancer is a challenge. It is important for you to learn about radiation therapy so that you can choose the type of radiation therapy that will work best for you. In this booklet,

you will learn about the following:

• What radiation therapy is

• What the different kinds of radiation therapy are

• Possible side effects (unwanted changes in your body) of radiation therapy

• How you can take care of yourself during, and after radiation therapy

• What follow-up care you will need once your radiation therapy is over It is important to think about these things if you and your doctor decide that radiation therapy is the best way to treat your prostate cancer.

Words that appear in bold (dark text) can be found in the “Key Words” section at the end of this booklet.

What Is Radiation Therapy?

Radiation therapy is a cancer treatment that uses high energy beams, such as xrays, to kill cancer cells in your prostate and stop them from spreading.

–  –  –

energy beams to "see" inside your body to find out if you are sick. You may have seen a chest x-ray or xray pictures of your teeth or your bones. These x-rays use small amounts of radiation. At high doses (or amounts), radiation can be used to treat your prostate cancer.

–  –  –

2. Small radioactive (ray-de-oh-ak-tiv) pellets that send set doses (or amounts) of radiation at your prostate cancer from inside your body.

Radiation can kill your cancer cells or keep them from growing. Radiation therapy

is used to:

1. Treat cancer: Radiation can cure, stop, or slow the growth of your prostate cancer. It can be used with success to treat your prostate cancer.

2. Reduce Symptoms. When a cure for your cancer is not possible, radiation may be used to shrink your cancer tumors. Radiation used this way can lower the amount of pain you may have. (See IMPACT Brochure, “Palliative Radiation,” for more information).

How Is Radiation Therapy Given?

Radiation therapy can be given to you by external beam or internal radiation.

–  –  –

directs the high-energy rays at your prostate cancer and a small amount of healthy tissue around it. The most common type of machine used to give you external radiation therapy is called a linear (li-neher) accelerator (ak-sel-ah-ra-ter). External radiation therapy is usually given to you during outpatient visits to a hospital or treatment center.

Outpatient visits are when you do not need to stay overnight in the hospital or treatment center. (See IMPACT Brochure, “IMRT and You,” for more information.)

There are many kinds of external radiation therapy:

• 3D-Conformal Radiation Therapy aims high energy x-rays in the

–  –  –

that is aimed at your prostate cancer. The computer uses information about the size, shape, and location of your prostate cancer to figure

–  –  –

• IGRT (image-guided radiation therapy). With IGRT, small gold seeds are placed near your prostate before you begin treatment. Your

–  –  –

It may help you to think about radiation therapy as a game of darts. Your prostate cancer is the bull’s eye in the center of the game board. The darts are the beams of radiation used to kill your prostate cancer cells. The area around the bull’s eye stands for the healthy cells surrounding your prostate cancer. With external beam radiation therapy, your doctors carefully plan to have the darts hit the bull’s eye each time you are treated.

Sometimes despite the careful planning, the darts hit the area surrounding the bull’s eye. This can cause you to have side effects. Over the years, external radiation therapy has become more focused. Doctors are now able to plan radiation therapy so that they hit the bull’s eye almost every time. By protecting the area around the bull’s eye, you may have fewer side effects.

–  –  –

When internal radiation therapy is used to treat your prostate cancer, the radiation source is placed inside your body. This method of radiation treatment is called brachytherapy (braykey-thair-a-pee) or seed implant. When you get

–  –  –

your prostate during an operation. These seeds or pellets are smaller than a grain of sand and are made out of a radioactive (ray-de-oh-ak-tiv) material. The seeds give a strong dose of radiation to your prostate cancer. This radiation kills your prostate cancer cells. The radiation from the seeds will get weaker each day and will be gone after one year.

Brachytherapy is usually done during an outpatient visit. (See IMPACT Brochure, “Brachytherapy and You” for more information.) Does Radiation Therapy Hurt?

No. Radiation therapy does not hurt when it is given to you. But, the side effects you may have from your radiation therapy, can cause pain or make you feel uncomfortable. The good news is that there are many things you and your health care team can do to help you manage any side effects you have from your prostate cancer treatment.

Can Radiation Therapy Be Used With Other Prostate Cancer Treatments?

Yes, radiation therapy can be used with other kinds of prostate cancer treatment.

Radiation treatment is a local treatment. This means that the radiation will only kill the cancer cells in your prostate. Using radiation therapy with another prostate cancer treatment is known as adjuvant (add-ju-vent) therapy (or a cancer treatment that is added to, and given after, your first prostate cancer treatment).

Radiation therapy is often used with surgery to treat cancer. Radiation therapy may be used after surgery to stop the growth of any prostate cancer cells that may remain.

In some cases, doctors use radiation along with hormone therapy. Hormone therapy works by starving the cancer cells of the male hormones it needs to grow.

This may make your radiation therapy treatments work better. Hormone therapy may be used with radiation therapy or before radiation to shrink your prostate cancer.

Radiation therapy can also be used to lower the amount of pain a person has when prostate cancer has spread to the bones. This is called palliative (pal-ee-ah-tiv) radiation therapy. Palliative radiation therapy does not cure prostate cancer but is very helpful as a treatment to make you more comfortable. Palliative radiation therapy can be used to shrink tumors and reduce pressure, pain, and other symptoms (signs of being sick) of your prostate cancer. When prostate cancer cells are killed or made to grow more slowly by radiation, the pain will getter better.

This can help lower the amount of pain medication you need to take. Many cancer patients find that they have a better quality of life when radiation is used for this purpose (See IMPACT Brochure called, “Palliative Radiation,” for more information).

What Is A Radiation Oncologist?

A radiation oncologist is a doctor who specializes in the treatment of people with cancer. They use radiation as the main way of treating cancer. Radiation oncologists work closely with other doctors, such as urologists and primary care physicians, to make sure that patients with cancer get the most effective treatment.

Your radiation oncologist:

• Will decide how much radiation you get for your prostate cancer

–  –  –

• Plans how your prostate cancer treatment will be given

• Closely follows you during your prostate cancer treatment

• Directs any care you need to help manage any side effects you may have during and after your prostate cancer treatment After your treatment is over, your radiation oncologist will see you for follow-up visits. At these visits, your radiation oncologist will find out how well the radiation worked to treat your prostate cancer and will help you with any side effects (unwanted changes in your body) you may have.

How Does My Radiation Oncologist Plan My Treatment?

After giving you a physical exam and reviewing your medical history, your radiation oncologist will plan your treatment. Your radiation oncologist will let

you know:

• Whether external beam or internal radiation therapy would be the best

–  –  –

It is important for your doctor to know about your urinary function. This will help your doctor


• Deal with any problems you are having before your treatment, and

• Plan on how to help you during and after your treatment.

Please answer the following questions and take this page with you when you go to your next doctor’s appointment.

–  –  –

Remember, it is important for you to speak with your doctor or health care team about any symptoms you have. This will help them plan the best treatment for you.

What Are The Risks Of Radiation Therapy?

The quick doses (or amounts) of radiation that damage or kill your prostate cancer cells may also hurt or kill your healthy cells. When healthy cells are killed by the radiation, you may have side effects. Most side effects of radiation treatment are well known and can be treated by your doctor and health care team.

How Long Does Radiation Treatment Take?

External Beam Radiation Therapy External beam radiation therapy is given to you five days a week for four to eight weeks. The total dose of radiation and the number of treatments you need depends on the size of your prostate cancer, your general health, and other medical treatments you have had or need to have.

Using many small doses (or amounts) of radiation each day rather than a few large doses (or amounts) helps protect the healthy cells in the treatment area (the exact place in your body where radiation will be aimed). Weekend rest breaks let your healthy

–  –  –

It is very important that you have all of your scheduled radiation treatments.

If you miss or put off your radiation treatments, your radiation therapy might

–  –  –

Internal Radiation Therapy If you have internal radiation, your radiation oncologist will choose the best type of seed implant to treat your prostate cancer. Your radiation oncologist may choose a low dose-rate (LDR) or high dose-rate (HDR). Low doserate seed implants are placed in your body in and around your prostate cancer. The seed implants give off a dose (or amount) or radiation. The low-dose-rate seed implants become less radioactive each day. High doserate implants are placed in and around your prostate cancer for only a few minutes. The seed implants are then taken out. The type of seed implant you have and how long it stays in your body will depend on the dose of radiation you need to have the most effective treatment.

How Can I Help Myself During Radiation Therapy?

All men who get radiation therapy for their prostate cancer need to take special care of themselves during their treatment. There are many easy things you can do

to help yourself during radiation therapy. What you do can help you to:

• Feel better

• Work out any problems that may come up

• Work with your doctor and health care team to help you get better Your doctor and health care team will talk to you about things you can do to take care of yourself during and after your treatment. Things like: Telling your health care team what medications are you taking.

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