The outlook for men with prostate cancer has improved in recent years, in part, because of new developments in radiation therapy. Radiation oncologists are better able to target prostate cancers, lessening the side effects to nearby healthy tissues. These newer radiation techniques are more likely to preserve a man's sexual function and urinary continence than radiation procedures used in the past.
In general, doctors use radiation therapy to treat prostate cancer patients in their 70s, while younger men—those in their 40s, 50s, and 60s—are better treated with surgical removal of their prostates.
Radiation therapy is most effective in men with prostate cancer confined to the prostate and/or surrounding tissue. Doctors at Columbia Urology collaborate with doctors at the Department of Radiation Oncology to administer these treatments.
Types of Radiation Therapy for Prostate Cancer
3-D Conformal External Beam Radiation for Prostate Cancer
Radiation oncologists use this form of treatment to direct a beam of high-energy radiation from outside the body to the site of the prostate cancer. They can target the beam precisely at the prostate tumor using sophisticated computer technology and in a manner that spares the normal surrounding tissue.
Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT) for Prostate Cancer
Columbia Urology is one of the lead institutions in New York using new IMRT technology to treat prostate cancer patients. IMRT is a special type of 3-D conformal external beam radiation therapy that more precisely targets higher doses of radiation to the prostate gland. With this new technology, radiation oncologists use an ultrasound system to determine whether the patient is positioned correctly. If he is not, the system makes a specific adjustment so that the radiation therapy can be delivered to the prostate cancer with great accuracy.
3-D Conformal Brachytherapy for Prostate Cancer
When using 3-D conformal brachytherapy to treat prostate cancer, radiotherapists implant radioactive pellets or seeds directly into the affected parts of the prostate gland. Over time the malignant areas of the prostate are bombarded with low-level radiation, while normal surrounding tissues are spared. The distribution of the pellets is predetermined using a sophisticated computer-generated plan that is customized to the anatomy of the individual patient. The implant procedure does not require a surgical incision.
Columbia Urology uses a new computer-guided technology that permits radiation oncologists to both plan and perform seeding during one procedure. This is called intra-operative pre-treatment planning. Another advance, dose optimization, allows the radiotherapist to align the radioactive seeds in a specific orientation in the gland. The distribution of the radiation is even more specific, making the prostate cancer treatment as effective and as safe as possible. These treatments are performed in conjunction with doctors at the Department of Radiation Oncology.