A prostate cancer patient generally comes to radiotherapy by the urologists referral based on the appointment and treatment consultation. Patients who have started pre-radiation hormonal treatment will have an appointment with an oncologist within 2–3 months of starting the hormonal treatment. This oncologist is in charge of the radiotherapy to be given to the patient.
Pros and cons
During the first visit, the oncologist evaluates patient suitability for radiotherapy and the means of carrying out the treatment. The oncologist also describes the benefits to be gained from the treatment and any potential drawbacks. Radiotherapy for prostate cancer can be given either internally or externally, and the appointment includes discussion about which of these will be the best means of radiotherapy for the patient.
Before these treatment planning descriptions, the patient may have three gold seeds or a radio frequency marker placed inside the prostate for location and treatment targeting. The procedure is performed by ultrasound-driven means through the rectum with antibiotic protection.
During treatment, radiotherapy may cause urinary or intestinal disorders, and it may impair erectile function. Usually, the symptoms are worst at the end of radiotherapy, but they will gradually improve over a period of months. Side effects caused by radiotherapy can be relieved by medication.
Radiotherapy for prostate cancer is given in series of treatments, with the length of each treatment period varying 4–8 weeks, depending on the patient. A single radiation treatment lasts approx. 10 minutes, and the treatment is given five days a week at an outpatient ward. After any single treatment, the patient can be discharged on foot, by public means of transport or by private vehicle.
Recovery from the side effects of radiotherapy is unique to each patient, but usually the side effects begin to be relieved within 2–4 weeks.