Frequently Asked Questions


About Radiation Therapy for Prostate Cancer

What kind of radiation therapy will I receive?

External beam radiation therapy is given by a machine called a linear accelerator. The radiation beam is aimed at your prostate gland from outside the body. Image-Guided Radiation Therapy is a method of using film images before each treatment to assure accuracy to target the prostate and spare normal surrounding tissues/organs. Marker seeds are placed in your prostate for this reason. Three freckle-sized tattoos will be placed on each hip and lower pelvis prior to starting treatment to align the external beams with your marker seeds. A CT scan done with the tattoos will be used by the Radiation Oncologist and Physicist for planning your treatment. Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy uses your CT scan to precisely target your prostate allowing for an increase radiation dose also sparing nearby organs/tissues.

What is a Gleason score?

A Gleason score is a rating of the aggressiveness of the tumor by the pathologist based on the appearance of the cancer cells.

What are gold seeds?

Gold or markers seeds are tiny implanted rods placed in your prostate to make your prostate visible for tumor location on pre-treatment images. They provide for an accurate daily tumor alignment. These markers permanently remain in your prostate gland.

How long are radiation treatments?

Each treatment is approximately 10-12 minutes in length. We like to be as punctual as possible since you are waiting with a full bladder.

How many treatments do I need?

The number of treatment fractions is personalized for each person’s cancer stage and type, as well as other factors. Your physician will make the final determination. A course can run anywhere from 6 to 9 weeks, total.

Do treatments hurt?

No. Treatments are painless. You will hear the sound of the machine as it moves around you.

Do I come every day for therapy?

Treatments are Monday-Friday, no weekends or holidays. The weekend gives your body a “break” allowing time for normal cells to recover.

Are you enclosed in a tunnel?

No. The linear accelerator rotates around you and the table. Your head is not enclosed. We have a camera and a microphone in the room with you so we can see and communicate with you throughout your treatment.

Are you radiating just the tumor in my prostate?

No. We radiate the entire prostate and some surrounding tissue, as medically needed.

What is a PSA?

Prostate-Specific Antigen is obtained by drawing blood. This blood test measures a protein produced by both normal and cancerous prostate cells. When prostate cancer grows or when prostate diseases are present, PSA in the blood increases.

Why do I need a full bladder with each treatment?

A full bladder pushes your bowel out of the treatment field or away from your prostate.

What side effects will I have?

Keep in mind that each person’s body is different and reacts differently to treatment. Some possible side effects are: fatigue, urinary and bowel frequency/ urgency, urinary burning, loose stools, rectal irritation, skin irritation, blood in the urine, rectal bleeding, hair loss in pelvic area, and decreased sexual function. Some side effects can be managed with diet and medication. Two to four weeks after therapy is completed, side effects usually subside.

What foods should I avoid?

You should avoid foods that can affect bowel or bladder functions. You will be given a detailed list of suggestions. You can also review this with the doctor and nursing staff.

Will I lose weight?

Most patients maintain their weight throughout treatment. Eating a generally healthy diet will give your body the variety of nutrients it needs to fight cancer. Eating well may help decrease the side effects of your therapy. We will be monitoring your weight weekly along with your blood pressure. If at any time you have a question or concern, please do not hesitate to ask.

How will I know all the cancer is gone?

Your Urologist will closely monitor your Prostate- Specific Antigen (PSA) blood work after therapy is completed. Your PSA level should drop after radiation.

Are there support groups available?

Yes. UCPA hosts a Man to Man support group that meets every third Thursday of the even months here at our treatment office. Family members are welcome at all meetings.