Complications of Prostate Radiation
Treating Prostate Tumors
When cancer is confined to the prostate gland, doctors and patients have a variety of options for treatment, including surgery, radiation or both, or simply closely monitoring the tumor for changes. Several surgery and radiation prostate cancer treatments have emerged over the past 10-15 years that aim to minimize damage and give the patient a better quality of life:
- Nerve-sparing radical prostatectomy: In this procedure a highly skilled surgeon removes the prostate gland without cutting the critical nearby nerves that send signals between the brain and the penis. This enables some patients to continue functioning well sexually.
- Conformal external beam radiation therapy: This advanced technology uses computerized 3-D imaging of the prostate, rectum and bladder in order to ensure that the x-ray radiation beam will precisely conform to the prostate. This limits the radiation’s reach to surrounding tissues and helps to protect other nearby organs.
- Image-guided radiation therapy: Because the position of the prostate varies, depending on the fullness of the bladder or rectum, radiation oncologists use image guidance to localize the prostate and verify its position before each treatment. In one method, technicians add tiny specks of inert metal, such as gold, to the prostate gland. They then use digital x-ray imaging to track these metallic markers daily prior to the radiation treatment in order to obtain the best possible set up for treatment. Similarly, ultrasound or low-dose CT-scans may be used to accurately localize the prostate prior to treatments.
- Brachytherapy: In this radiation treatment, surgeons place up to 100 radioactive seeds within the prostate gland using hollow needles. While this implant treatment has been used for decades, advances in imaging has improved both its delivery and outcome.
Even though advances in radiation treatment continue, post-treatment, patients can still experience persistent pain and bleeding due to necrosis in the prostate, bladder, penis, urethra, pelvic bone, pelvic floor, and rectum – often leading to the need for further surgeries.
Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy improves symptoms in 50 to 60 percent of patients, and sometimes ends symptoms entirely.
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