Forms of Radiotherapy

There is a wide range of forms of radiotherapy in treating cancer of the prostate:
1. External beam therapy:

  • Divided into Standard External Beam Therapy and 3D Conformal Therapy.
  • It delivers radiation beams targeted to the prostate.
  • It is carried out as an outpatient procedure – patients do not have to stay in the hospital.
  • 3D Conformal Therapy is a more updated method but is less widely available. It uses beams that are shaped to the outline of the prostate. Computer images are used to target the beams accurately.

2. Brachytherapy:

  • It is a form of radiation therapy used in more localised prostate cancer, meaning cancer that is more confined to the prostate itself.
  • In brachytherapy, the doctor implants radioactive seeds directly into the prostate.
  • This enables the radiation to be given at a higher dose in a more concentrated manner.
  • It is a fairly short procedure. Patients are usually required to stay in the hospital for only one night.

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3. High Dose Rate (HDR) brachytherapy:

  • It is usually combined with external radiotherapy.
  • It is used to treat more advanced prostate cancer, where treatment is needed to cover the whole prostate and a margin.
  • In HDR brachytherapy, thin stiff plastic tubes are inserted through the perineum (the area of skin behind the scrotum) and into the prostate. This is done under anaesthesia.
  • A radiotherapy machine inserts a radioactive wire through each plastic tube and into the prostate. These wires are left in place for a few minutes and then removed.
  • Patients stay in the hospital for one night. The next day the procedure of inserting and removing the radioactive wires is repeated. The procedure takes about half an hour.

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