External Beam Radiotherapy Androgen Deprivation Therapy
External beam radiotherapy is the only curative therapeutic option, which in randomized trials showed superior efficacy compared with sole androgen deprivation therapy. More than 2300 patients who had been randomized to ADT or a combination of irradiation and ADT were found to have significantly superior results with additional radiotherapy :
Treating Advanced Prostate Cancer
If the cancer has reached an advanced stage, it’s no longer possible to cure it. But it may be possible to slow its progression, prolong your life and relieve symptoms.
Treatment options include:
- hormone treatment
If the cancer has spread to your bones, medicines called bisphosphonates may be used. Bisphosphonates help reduce bone pain and bone loss.
Your Role On Your Radiation Therapy Team
Youll have a team of healthcare providers working together to care for you. Youre part of that team, and your role includes:
- Getting to your appointments on time.
- Asking questions and talking about your concerns.
- Telling someone on your radiation therapy team when you have side effects.
- Telling someone on your radiation therapy team if youre in pain.
- Caring for yourself at home by:
- Quitting smoking, if you smoke. If you want to quit, call our Tobacco Treatment Program at .
- Caring for your skin as instructed.
- Drinking liquids as instructed.
The Grade Group And Psa Level Are Used To Stage Prostate Cancer
The stage of the cancer is based on the results of the staging and diagnostic tests, including the prostate-specific antigen test and the Grade Group. The tissue samples removed during the biopsy are used to find out the Gleason score. The Gleason score ranges from 2 to 10 and describes how different the cancer cells look from normal cells under a microscope and how likely it is that the tumor will spread. The lower the number, the more cancer cells look like normal cells and are likely to grow and spread slowly.
The Grade Group depends on the Gleason score. See the General Information section for more information about the Gleason score.
- Grade Group 1 is a Gleason score of 6 or less.
- Grade Group 2 or 3 is a Gleason score of 7.
- Grade Group 4 is a Gleason score 8.
- Grade Group 5 is a Gleason score of 9 or 10.
The PSA test measures the level of PSA in the blood. PSA is a substance made by the prostate that may be found in an increased amount in the blood of men who have prostate cancer.
Side Effects Of Radiation Therapy To Your Prostate
Some people have side effects from radiation therapy. The type and severity of side effects varies from person to person. Your healthcare provider will talk with you about what to expect based on your medical history and specific treatment plan.
This section explains the most common side effects of radiation therapy to the prostate. You may have all, some, or none of these. Most of these side effects will go away several weeks to months after you finish radiation therapy. If you have any of these side effects, your healthcare provider will give you more information and help you manage them.
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Diet Guidelines To Minimize Bloating
During your radiation therapy, gas or fluid can build up in your bowels and cause bloating. When your bowels are bloated, they can expand into the treatment area and be exposed to radiation. This can cause side effects or make your side effects worse.
Follow the guidelines below to lower your risk of bloating during radiation therapy. Its best to start 2 to 3 days before your simulation and continue until you have finished your radiation therapy.
- Chew your food well.
If youre bloated, keeping a food journal can help you see which foods may be causing it. Write down your foods and drinks, the time you have them, and the time you start feeling bloated. Bring your food journal to your appointments. Your healthcare provider will use it to help you manage the bloating.
A clinical dietitian nutritionist can talk with you about your diet and help you design an eating plan that meets your needs. If youd like to meet with a clinical dietitian nutritionist, ask your radiation oncologist or nurse for a referral.
Radiation Therapy For Prostate Cancer
Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays or particles to destroy cancer cells. It is usually used to treat prostate cancer. Your healthcare team will consider your personal needs to plan the type and amount of radiation, and when and how it is given. You may also be given hormone therapy together with radiation therapy.
Radiation therapy is given for different reasons. You may have radiation therapy to:
- destroy cancer cells in the body
- treat cancer that is not removed completely with surgery or that comes back after surgery
- relieve pain or control the symptoms of advanced prostate cancer
The following types of radiation therapy are most commonly used to treat prostate cancer.
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Tips To Get The Most From Your Follow
Write down any questions or concerns beforehand
Its easy to forget what you want to say once youre at your appointment.
Bring someone with you
It can be hard to take everything in at your appointments. Some people find it helpful to take someone with them, to listen and discuss things with later. If your appointment is on the phone, you could ask a friend or family member to listen with you.
It can help to write things down during or after your appointment. Theres space for this in the appointment diary in our booklet, Follow-up after prostate cancer treatment: What happens next?
Ask to record your appointment
You could do this using your phone or another recording device. You have the right to record your appointment if you want to because its your personal data. But let your doctor or nurse know if you are recording them.
Ask for help
If there is anything bothering you, let your doctor or nurse know.
Ask for copies of any letters
If your appointment is at the hospital, ask for a copy of the letter that is sent to your GP. This will happen automatically at some hospitals. It will help to remind you of what was said at your appointment. If you dont understand the letter, call your main contact at the hospital or contact our Specialist Nurses.
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Side Effects From Hormone Therapy
Hormone therapy for prostate cancer, known as androgen deprivation therapy , suppresses production of testosterone. ADT can cause several side effects. These include fatigue, hot flashes, decreased bone density, ED, depressed mood, decreased sex drive, weight gain, heart risks, breast growth and cognitive decline.
The severity and length of side effects depend on how long treatment lasts. “If a man has only six months of treatment, their level of testosterone rises again, and they’ll go back to feeling like themselves,” Calvaresi said.
Often, mood changes in men on ADT are caused by other side effects such as weight gain and hot flashes. “If we can manage those other side effects, then often that improves mood,” she said. Following a healthy diet and exercising regularly often helps to decrease fatigue, prevent weight gain and improve overall mood. Before beginning hormone therapy, you should discuss the effects of ADT with your doctor, and talk about how you can change your exercise and eating habits to help head off side effects before they occur.
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Bowel Dysfunction After Prostate Cancer Treatment
The broad term of bowel dysfunction includes:
Diarrhea or frequent stools
Fecal incontinence or the inability to control bowel movements
All of these side effects are far more common following external beam radiotherapy than any other primary therapy, but as techniques and dose planning strategies improve, even these rates have been dropping.
Cancer That Is Thought To Still Be In Or Around The Prostate
If the cancer is still thought to be just in the area of the prostate, a second attempt to cure it might be possible.
After radiation therapy: If your first treatment was radiation, treatment options might include cryotherapy or radical prostatectomy, but when these treatments are done after radiation, they carry a higher risk for side effects such as incontinence. 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. If the only sign of cancer recurrence is a rising PSA level , another option for some men might be active surveillance instead of active treatment. Prostate cancer often grows slowly, so even if it does come back, it might not cause problems for many years, at which time further treatment could then be considered.
Factors such as how quickly the PSA is going up and the original Gleason score of the cancer can help predict how soon the cancer might show up in distant parts of the body and cause problems. If the PSA is going up very quickly, some doctors might recommend that you start treatment even before the cancer can be seen on tests or causes symptoms.
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How Might Hormone Therapy Make Me Feel
Hormone therapy itself can affect your mood. You may find that you feel more emotional than usual or just different to how you felt before. Some men find that they cry a lot. You may also get mood swings, such as getting tearful and then angry. Just knowing that these feelings are caused by hormone therapy can help.
Everyones different some men are surprised by the side effects and how upsetting they find them. Others have fewer symptoms or are not as worried by them.
Some of the other side effects of hormone therapy are hard to come to terms with. Physical changes, such as putting on weight, or changes to your sex life, might make you feel very different about yourself. Some men say they feel less masculine because of their diagnosis and treatment.
If youre starting hormone therapy very soon after being diagnosed with prostate cancer, you might still feel upset, shocked, frightened or angry about having cancer. These feelings are normal, and it’s okay to feel this way.
Things in your day-to-day life can change because of the hormone therapy. Your relationships with your partner, family and friends might change. Or you might be too tired to do some of the things you used to do.
Some men experience low moods, anxiety or depression. This could be directly caused by the hormone therapy itself, or because you’ve been diagnosed with prostate cancer. It could also be due to the impact that treatment is having on you and your family.
What can help?
Talking about it
Side Effects Of Treatment
Treatments for prostate cancer can cause side effects, which might carry on after your treatment has finished. Some side effects can even start several months or years after treatment finishes.
Side effects will affect each man differently you may not get all the possible side effects from your treatment.
Read more about:
Managing side effects
Side effects can affect your day-to-day life, but there are treatments for them, as well as things you can do to manage them yourself. Its important to speak to your doctor, nurse or GP about them.
If youre having problems with a side effect, you might have a meeting with your doctor or nurse to work out what support you need. They may refer you to someone who can give you more advice and support.
Read more about managing the side effects of prostate cancer treatment.
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Urinary And Bowel Changes
Radiation therapy can cause permanent urinary and bowel changes. Many people dont notice any changes or have any symptoms. However, some people have late side effects.
Late side effects may be similar to the ones you had during treatment. Theres a very small chance you may develop other side effects. For example:
- The opening of your bladder may become narrower.
- You may lose your ability to control your bladder.
- You may have blood in your urine.
- You may have bleeding from your rectum.
- Your rectum may be injured.
These side effects are rare. They may come and go over time or be persistent and chronic. Your healthcare team will help you manage them.
Even if you dont develop any late side effects, remember that the tissues in your bladder and rectum were affected by your radiation therapy. Call your radiation oncologist if you:
- Have any new urinary, bladder, or bowel symptoms.
- Need to have a colonoscopy. Avoid having a colonoscopy for the first year after radiation therapy.
- Need any type of urological or rectal procedure.
What Is Prostate Cancer
Prostate cancer develops in the prostatea small gland that makes seminal fluid. It is the second most common type of cancer in men. Prostate cancer usually grows over time and in the beginning stays within the prostate gland, where it may not cause serious harm. While some types of prostate cancer grow slowly and may need minimal or no treatment, other types are aggressive and can spread quickly.
Prostate cancer that is caught early has a better chance of successful treatment.
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What Should My Psa Level Be After Treatment
Following surgery , your PSA number should be undetectable after about a month. This is effectively zero PSA, but may not get all the way to zero, given the sensitivity of the test and the fact that other proteins may be misread as PSA proteins. The most widely accepted definition of a prostate cancer recurrence after surgery is a PSA of 0.2 ng/mL or greater on at least two separate occasions.
If youve had radiation therapy, your PSA will likely not drop to zero, as there is some normal, healthy prostate tissue that remains after treatment. Instead, there is a different low PSA level for each patient, called a nadir. The most widely accepted definition is a PSA that has risen from nadir by 2 ng/mL or more. Either way, its important to always use the same lab, if possible, for all of your PSA tests because PSA values can fluctuate somewhat from lab to lab. Defining failure after other forms of therapy like brachytherapy seeds or cryotherapy is more challenging, but similar to that used with external radiation.
If your PSA is rising but doesnt quite meet these definitions, your doctor may recommend an evaluation to see whether your prostate cancer has recurred.
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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Treating Prostate Cancer With Combined Hormonal
Androgens, the family of male sex hormones that includes testosterone, function as a fuel for growth in normal development. However, in some men they can also drive the progression of prostate cancer. Hormonal therapy treats prostate cancer by dramatically reducing levels of testosterone and other androgens.
Hormonal therapy is sometimes given in conjunction with external beam radiation to boost the effectiveness of treatment. Hormonal therapy may also be used to shrink the size of large prostate glands before brachytherapy takes place, to enable proper placement of the radioactive seeds.
Combination hormonal/radiation therapy is now a standard option for men with cancer that has extended beyond the prostate or whose cancer is considered high-risk based on other clinical findings, with studies showing that it reduces the risk of dying from prostate cancer and other causes more than with either treatment given alone..
Combination therapy can also be considered for men with localized prostate cancer in the intermediate-risk category. Whether men with low-risk prostate cancer would benefit from a hormonal therapyradiation combination is uncertain.
Image: sturti/Getty Images
What If My Psa Rises While Im On Hormone Therapy
When the PSA is rising or cancer is spreading despite a low level of testosterone, prostate cancer is called castration-resistant, or hormone-refractory. Despite this name, some hormonal therapies may still work. But prostate cancer in this setting may progress and become more aggressive and resistant, and you should be prepared to discuss additional treatment strategies with your doctor. This is the time when a medical oncologist, if not already involved in your care, gets involved. These doctors specialize in medical, systemic treatments for prostate cancer, which is useful at this time given that your disease is typically metastatic, meaning that it is not confined to only one location. Cancer cells in this situation have typically spread through the blood stream or lymphatics to other places in the body, and localized treatments are rarely helpful except in circumstances where where you are having symptoms, such as problems with urination.
Fortunately, more and more treatments for metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer have become available in recent years, including certain newer androgen directed therapies, taxane chemotherapy, immunotherapy, PARP inhibitors, and, in 2022, lutetium-PSMA radionuclide therapy. Additional tests are required for some of these treatments to see if your particular type of prostate cancer is likely to respond. See Chapter 5 in PCFs Prostate Cancer Patient Guide for more details.
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