Radiation therapy uses high energy rays or particles to kill cells. Radiation disrupts the cell's DNA, preventing further growth or division of the cancer cells. Two types of radiation therapy that are used to treat prostate cancer are external beam radiation (EBRT) and brachytherapy.
In EBRT, a machine is used outside the body to apply radiation to the prostate. The radiation is concentrated into beams that are applied to the prostate while attempting to avoid damaging as many healthy cells as possible. This method is often used to treat early stage prostate cancer.
Brachytherapy involves the insertion of radioactive seeds directly into or near the prostate gland. Radiation can be temporarily applied by placing radioactive wires inside the prostate for a short amount of time. Alternately, radioactive materials can be sealed inside small devices, or seeds, which are placed in the prostate permanently to slowly release radiation over time.
Short-term side effects of EBRT may include fatigue, and skin changes similar to sun burn and loss of hair in the area treated. Long-term side effects of both external beam radiation therapy and brachytherapy can include erectile dysfunction or urinary issues including frequency of urination, difficulty urinating, blood in the urine, or incontinence.
See how this compares with other prostate cancer treatments»