Prostate Cancer

Frequently Asked Questions

18. How is radiation used to treat prostate cancer?

Radiation therapy uses high-energy x-rays to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Doctors may recommend it instead of surgery or after surgery to destroy any cancer cells that may remain in the area. In advanced stages, the doctor may recommend it to relieve pain or other symptoms. Radiation can cause problems with impotence and bowel function.

The radiation may come from a machine, which is external radiation, or from tiny radioactive seeds placed inside or near the tumor, which is internal radiation. Men who receive only the radioactive seeds usually have small tumors. Some men receive both kinds of radiation therapy.

For external radiation therapy, patients go to the hospital or clinic -- usually 5 days a week for several weeks. Internal radiation may require patients to stay in the hospital for a short time.

(Watch the video to learn more about external radiation therapy. To enlarge the video, click the brackets in the lower right-hand corner. To reduce the video, press the Escape (Esc) button on your keyboard.)