What is it?

Radiotherapy is treatment with radiation. External beam radiation uses a beam of X-rays aimed at a specific area of the body. In the case of prostate cancer, this is the lower pelvis where the prostate sits, just below the bladder and in front of the rectum. The X-rays damage the DNA (genetic code) in the cells which makes the cells unable to grow or divide, and kills them.

Cancer cells are more sensitive to radiation than normal cells. These can repair some of the damage, which allows the normal cells to survive. However, some side effects are inevitable in the normal tissues of the body in the area near the targeted cancer. Great care is taken to ensure that the radiation dose to the surrounding normal tissue is kept as low as possible.

In Australia, there are about as many men with prostate cancer treated with external beam radiotherapy (“beam therapy”) as those treated with radical prostatectomy.

External beam radiation uses large, sophisticated “linear accelerators” which target radiation beams precisely at the prostate and surrounding tissue.

Radiation treatment is suitable for most stages of prostate cancer, although the exact techniques and combinations with other modalities varies, depending on the stage and aggressiveness of the disease.

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