- Our Physicians & Advanced Practitioners
- Patient Area
Introduction to Radiation Therapy
Radiation therapy is a commonly used tool to treat many types of cancer. The goal of treatment is to deliver lethal doses of radiation to cancer cells while limiting injury to surrounding normal, non-cancerous tissues. Fortunately, in contrast to cancer cells, normal cells have a great capacity to repair themselves after radiation. This regenerative characteristic of normal cells, coupled with improvements in techniques to target the cancer and limit the dose to normal tissue, has ushered in a modern era of radiation therapy with excellent cancer cure rates and limited complications.
Prostate cancer has been successfully treated with radiation therapy for over 40 years. With experience and improvements in technology the cancer cure rates have improved and the side effects have decreased. There are several techniques for delivering radiation, all with potentially excellent results. To be successful the techniques need to deliver high doses of radiation to the prostate with great accuracy. Accuracy minimizes damage to the normal tissues surrounding the prostate, such as the bladder, the urethra, and the rectum.
Several challenges exist to the effective delivery of radiation to the prostate gland. Prostates are irregularly shaped, of varying size, and the cancer within the prostate cannot be seen easily. Radiation treatments must be administered in a way that adequately covers the entire prostate with an accurate, effective dose of radiation. Inadequate treatment will lead to survival of cancer cells in the prostate, termed “local failure”. Furthermore, important normal structures surround the prostate, which need to be protected from unnecessarily high doses of radiation. The bladder, urethra, rectum, and nerve bundles, which are involved in normal urinary, bowel, and sexual function, lie in close proximity to the prostate gland. Inaccurate delivery of radiation can harm these normal structures.