If you have been diagnosed with prostate cancer, you will be faced with a choice of two main treatments: surgery and radiation therapy. Both treatments have a high rate of success, but there are long-term side effects from having your prostate removed. This, along with other issues, may make radiation therapy an option you are interested in. The following are a few things you should know about radiation treatment for prostate cancer.
What to expect during treatment
Radiation therapy is predominantly an outpatient treatment. You will visit the hospital, and after treatment, you can go home. There are several different machines and techniques used for this treatment. One of the most common is an external beam that is designed to concentrate radiation on the cancerous area of your prostate. The length of time you will undergo treatment will depend upon the radiation method used and the extent of the cancerous cells in your prostate. However, your treatment duration will likely be measured in weeks rather than months.
Side effects during treatment
Although there is no pain associated with this treatment itself, there may be some pain or feelings of discomfort from the side effects of treatment. The side effects are directly related to the healthy cells that are destroyed during treatment. Although the goal of treatment is to kill only cancer cells, there will be healthy cells killed. There are many side effects related to radiation treatment, but the most common are frequent urination and bowel problems, especially soft stools. Your doctor can explain the full range of possible side effects.
Recovery and long-term side effects
After you have completed your therapy, you will likely continue to have the same side effects that you had during the treatment, but they will begin to subside over the next few weeks. There are, however, side effects that may manifest themselves after you finish your treatment. Fatigue is one common problem, but others include pain during a bowel movement. Your doctor will let you know the specific effects you may experience after your treatment is complete. Any unexpected pain or symptoms you should immediately report to your doctor. You can expect follow-up appointments with your physician, and you can talk about your progress and any new issues that you are experiencing.
It is important that you discuss all of the issues related to treatment for prostate cancer with your doctor. Depending upon other health issues that you have, there may be a single type of radiation therapy that is best for you, or perhaps your doctor may recommend radiation therapy combined with another form or therapy. But keep in mind that prostate cancer is a very treatable form of cancer with a high success rate.