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.

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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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