Newswise — New Brunswick, N.J., June 6, 2022 – The American Cancer Society estimates about one in eight men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during his lifetime. There are two main approaches to the treatment of the disease: removal of the prostate through a surgical procedure called a “radical prostatectomy” and targeted external treatment through different forms of radiation therapy. Research has shown that radiation and surgery are equally effective at treating the disease, however, in recent years, radiation treatment has become the preferred treatment option as it causes fewer side effects. Ronald D. Ennis, MD,Professor and Vice Chair of Network Integration and Quality, Department of Radiation Oncology at Rutgers Cancer Institute, along with Lara Hathout, MD, FRCPC, radiation oncologist and director of Brachytherapy at Rutgers Cancer Institute and associate Professor of radiation oncology at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School share more about the topic.

What are the different types of radiation therapy offered for prostate cancer?

Radiation is an effective treatment for prostate cancer. It can be delivered by creating a beam of x-rays using an exceptionally sophisticated machine and shining that beam at the prostate via targeting methods having millimeter accuracy. Two forms of this treatment technology are Intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) and Cyberknife (also known as SBRT). Cyber knife delivers the treatment in fewer treatments. Cyberknife is not appropriate for all patients but is an excellent and effective option for many. IMRT uses advanced technology to manipulate photon and proton beams of radiation to conform to the shape of a tumor. Proton therapy uses a proton beam rather than x-rays and has the potential to cause less side effects since lower doses are delivered to tissues away from the prostate. 

The other method for delivering radiation is by implanting it directly into the prostate, known as brachytherapy. This method delivers the highest possible amount of radiation and is appropriate for many, but not all patients.  There are two forms of brachytherapy high dose-rate, which places the radiation into the prostate just for 1-2 treatments after which it is removed, or low dose-rate seeds in which the seeds slowly deliver radiation over several weeks to months after placement.  

For those with prostate cancer, who is the best candidate for radiation therapy?

Nearly all patients are excellent candidates to consider radiation therapy for prostate cancer. Very few patients, with uncommon situations, are not candidates.  For most patients, careful consideration of radiation therapy is warranted so that each patient can choose his best option. Each patient needs to weigh the side effects and benefits of all the different treatment options.

What are the benefits of radiation therapy for prostate cancer?

The benefits of radiation therapy are high likelihood rates of controlling the cancer in the prostate while minimizing the risk of impotence and incontinence and without requiring a major surgical procedure.

What should patients know about the approach to treating prostate cancer at Rutgers Cancer Institute and RWJBarnabas Health?

At Rutgers Cancer Institute and RWJBarnabas Health we pride ourselves on having all radiation therapy options available and tailoring our recommendations to the individual based on his specific cancer, his general health and his personal preferences.

June is Men’s Health Month, a national observance that raises awareness about health care for men. It is also the month during which we celebrate Father’s day, making June the perfect time to prioritize discussion about prostate cancer, the second most common cancer in men. Learn more about the Prostate Cancer Program at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, the state’s only National Cancer Institute (NCI) – designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, which in collaboration with RWJBarnabas Health, addresses the prevention, research and treatment of the disease.