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Radiation Therapy


External Beam Radiation: Radiation therapy is an ideal treatment solution for many types of cancers including prostate cancer. Radiation works similar to chemotherapy. It temporarily causes inflammation of all of the tissues within a treatment area. While normal tissues have the ability to restore this damage caused by inflammation, cancer cells cannot repair themselves and subsequently die while the normal tissues eventually return healthy.


The newest technology available is called Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT). IMRT is a process that targets multiple small beams of radiation directly into a tumor while avoiding harm to surrounding normal tissue and critical organs. With the emergence of state-of-the-art software and new technology, at the Northern Ohio Regional Cancer Center (NORCC) our expert team of physicians, dosimetrists and radiation therapists have taken IMRT one step further. With the addition of high-tech tumor and organ imaging, the NORCC team has the opportunity to see exactly what is going on in the body as each radiation treatment is taking place. The addition of a visual image during treatment is called Image Guided Radiation Therapy (IGRT). IGRT ensures the radiation therapist can see exactly how the prostate and surrounding tissue are positioned in the body each time they perform treatment. This additional visibility helps significantly reduce radiation side effects by preserving larger amounts of healthy tissue.


Patients who receive Image Guided Radiation Therapy require a planning session called Treatment Simulation. This involves performing a 10-15 minute modified CAT scan, which builds a three-dimensional model of each patient into a computer system. Next, our team of specialists analyzes the model to identify where they will place each beam of radiation to impact the cancer cells. This treatment planning process is highly technical and requires several hours to ensure adept precision and optimum results. Once the treatment planning phase is complete, the patient schedules time at our NORCC facility to receive each dose of radiation.


Depending on the patient’s course of treatment, radiation therapy sessions typically occur 3 to 5 days a week and the entire procedure lasts approximately¬†15-20 minutes. During a therapy session, radiation is delivered for only a few minutes and is painless like any traditional x-ray. Because this process takes a limited amount of time, patients can maintain their typical routine, including work. The entire course of radiation therapy can last anywhere from 6-9 weeks. As with any type of prostate cancer treatment, patients may experience some side effects. Side effects may include difficultly or discomfort urinating. Typically symptoms resolve themselves within 3 to 5 weeks after the entire course of treatment is completed.



At the Northern Ohio Regional Cancer Center, our experienced team of physicians, dosimetrists  and physicists expertly perform brachytherapy at an out-patient surgery center. Because there is only a very small surgical incision made to the body, patients enjoy the luxury of going home the same day without any overnight stay in a hospital or long term recovery unit. In addition to limited recuperation time, some patients may require a catheter for a brief period of time. In contrast, long term catheter use is mandatory following any surgical treatment of prostate cancer.


Not only does brachytherapy deliver swift treatment with minimal complications and side effects, the process is safe and effective with many years of well-documented clinical outcomes. Prior to the implantation procedure, an ultrasound exam is taken of the patient’s prostate and surrounding organs to create a three-dimensional computer model. Using that ultrasound data as a guide, a radiation oncologist, urologist and dosimetrist determine where to place the isotopes to maximize the dose to the prostate cancer cells while minimizing any negative impact to healthy tissue including the surrounding bladder, urethra, colon and critical nerves and vessels.


Once the planning phase is complete, the patient schedules their one-time procedure. During the implantation, the radiation oncologist inserts very slim needles into the prostate and with the assistance of the urologist injects the isotopes into the prostate. The isotopes are commonly referred to as seeds during this implantation process because they are very petite in nature- even smaller in size than a grain of rice!


The seeds contain enough radioactivity to treat cancer cells, but also preserve surrounding healthy tissue. Seeds are made of titanium and contain radioactive iodine. Over time, the seeds will lose their radioactivity, so only the titanium material the seeds are made from will remain. Titanium is the same material used for hip and knee replacements and is safe within the body. Once seeds are placed inside the body, they never need to be removed.


While a majority of patients don’t experience significant adverse symptoms directly following their brachytherapy treatment, a select few may experience discomfort from the placement of the needles and even frequency of urination, burning with urination and blood in the urine for the first 24 hours. More often than not, the following day patients can return to light activity, although our physicians recommend 5-7 days off from work and strenuous activity.


Approximately a month following the procedure there is a very small area of bladder and bowel, which may become inflamed temporarily. This inflammation can cause frequency of urination, burning with urination and occasionally change in bowel habits. These symptoms are temporary, treatable and traditionally do not keep patients from staying active. Brachytherapy is an exceptional alternative for men who enjoy an eventful lifestyle because it minimizes time spent away from work and family.



Video: What to Expect with External Beam Radiation Therapy (IMRT)


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More videos

External Beam Radiation:

The type of radiation used to treat cancer is very similar to a traditional x-ray although the beam is different. Radiation therapy uses a high-energy, focused beam of rays that selectively kill cancer cells and leave normal tissues alone.


Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT):

IMRT is a process that targets multiple small beams of radiation directly into a tumor while avoiding harm to surrounding normal tissue and critical organs.



Unlike traditional radiation treatments where focused, high-energy x-rays are delivered to cancer cells from outside of the patient’s body, brachytherapy is a treatment option where radiation- induced isotopes are surgically placed directly into the body. Due to several years of clinical and technological advances, brachytherapy is now a viable alternative to traditional surgery and other forms of treatment. The leading reason patients prefer brachytherapy is because it delivers similar outcomes compared to surgery while permitting a more active lifestyle during treatment. Unlike other treatment options, brachytherapy allows patients to receive their complete course of treatment in only one minimally-invasive procedure.