Radiation is sometimes used to treat prostate cancer that is still confined to the prostate gland or has spread to nearby tissue. If the disease is more advanced, radiation may be used to reduce the size of the tumor or to provide pain relief when cancer has spread to the bones. At Roswell Park, a team of radiation oncologists, medical physicists and dosimetrists work together in one location to develop the optimal treatment plan for each patient.
External Beam Radiation
External beam radiation is focused from a source outside the body on the area affected by the cancer. There are many types of external beam radiation methods, including intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), which allows different parts of the tumor and surrounding tissue to receive different doses of radiation. This reduces radiation damage to tissues near the prostate and improves effectiveness by increasing the dose of radiation delivered to the cancer.
Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy
With stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT), prostate cancer patients at RPCI now have the advantage of faster, more precise radiation treatments with the introduction of RapidArc™ radiotherapy. RPCI is the first institution in Western New York to provide this advanced treatment method, together with the Varian Trilogy™ linear accelerator, which offers several benefits:
- It shapes the radiation beams more precisely to the tumor to deliver the most effective hit while protecting healthy tissue nearby.
- The treatment machine rotates around the patient just once, compared with traditional methods that require several rotations, stops and starts.
- Radiation delivery is accelerated, so treatment is completed up to eight times faster than with standard IMRT.
Brachytherapy is internal radiation treatment given by placing radioactive material directly into a tumor or close to it. For prostate cancer, brachytherapy may involve the permanent placement of radioactive seeds into the prostate gland or the temporary placement of a high-energy radioactive source into the prostate gland.
- Low dose rate (LDR) brachytherapy delivers LDR radiation to tumor areas. It involves the implantation of tiny radioactive seeds into the prostate gland also known as an interstitial implant. The specified radiation emitted by the radioactive seeds kills the tumor cells. This procedure can be combined with external-beam radiation to increase the radiation dose while sparing normal tissues from damage.
- High dose rate (HDR) brachytherapy allows high doses of radiation to be delivered to tumors. It uses one very small, high-intensity radiation source that is inserted temporarily. This type of brachytherapy leaves no permanent radiation in the patient. The radioactive implants last anywhere from minutes to hours, and are given in separate sessions, approximately six hours apart.
Radiation Medicine: Where You Go for Your Treatment Matters
If radiation therapy is part of your prostate cancer treatment plan, choosing where to have your treatments is one of the most important decisions you’ll make. Consider these key points before beginning any treatment:
Is the facility a National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center?
National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated cancer centers are recognized for their scientific excellence and quality patient care. They are a major source of discovery and development of more effective approaches to cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment and deliver these medical advances to their patients. A Comprehensive Cancer Center, such as Roswell Park, means the facility is also a leader in research, including laboratory, clinical, behavioral and population-based studies.
Will your treatment be planned and coordinated in concert with your other on-site cancer specialists — your surgeon and medical oncologist — to provide you with comprehensive, fully integrated treatment?
Many cancer patients need radiation therapy in addition to chemotherapy, biologic therapy and surgery. Some patients have radiotherapy during surgery, called intraoperative radiotherapy (IORT). The type of radiotherapy you receive and the timing of it must be integrated with the other treatments in your plan. Having all these specialists on your medical team — surgeons, medical oncologists and radiation oncologists, plus immunologists, psychologists, nutritionists and social workers — working under one roof, and collaborating on a regular basis to assess and evaluate your treatment and day-to-day needs, provides the highest degree of comprehensive care.
Is your treatment planned and provided by a multidisciplinary team of radiation medicine specialists?
Roswell Park's Department of Radiation Medicine is the regional leader in innovative treatment methodologies. Our radiation team of specialists includes board-certified radiation oncologists, medical physicists, and dosimetrists. These specialists work closely with our physician assistants, registered nurses, radiation therapists and other support staff to develop a customized treatment plan specifically for you that is based on the most up-to-date, peer-reviewed research. Each physician on the radiation oncology team specializes in a particular type of cancer.
Are the faculty on-site, full-time radiation specialists with a manageable patient load?
You need and deserve to be treated by a team whose full-time job and primary focus is your care. Radiation therapy mandates accurate and careful planning, timing, dosing and marking with ultimate precision. Some treatment centers have multiple locations manned by just one physician and staffed by per diem or part-time personnel without the experience or specialty in radiation medicine.