Radiation is another common option for treating early-stage prostate cancer. It works by using high doses of radiation energy to kill cancer cells or keep them from growing and dividing.
External beam radiation is produced from a machine outside the body. The radiation is aimed at the areas of the prostate where cancer is present. This treatment requires regular sessions, often 5 days per week. The sessions often continue for 7 to 9 weeks.
Brachytherapy [brak-i-THER-uh-pee] uses radioactive implants placed directly into the cancerous tumor. Some implants are permanent. Others are temporary and are removed after the tumor has received enough radiation.
While newer radiation treatment methods may involve less risk, the side effects can affect your everyday activities while you receive treatment. After radiation therapy, there is a low risk of losing urinary control, but the risk of losing sexual function is similar to the risk with surgery. Other potential side effects of radiation include:
- Bowel problems such as diarrhea, blood in the stool, rectal leakage, and an irritated large intestine
- American Cancer Society. Radiation therapy for prostate cancer. www.cancer.org/Cancer/ProstateCancer/DetailedGuide/prostate-cancer-treating-radiation-therapy. Accessed August 28, 2012.