Radiation Therapy for Prostate Cancer

Southern Tasmania Area Health ServicesTasmanian Health Service - Southern Region

Patient Information Brochure

Radiation Therapy for Prostate Cancer


Prostate cancer

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men and one in five in males will develop prostate cancer by the age of 85.

Treating prostate cancer

The following information is provided to help you make an informed decision about your treatment.

Treatment options are based on the following factors:

  • Tumour extent
  • PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen)
  • Gleason score (how abnormal the cells are)

Treatment options include radiation therapy, surgery, hormone therapy or a combination of these.

What is Radiation therapy?

Radiation therapy, sometimes called radiotherapy, is the use of high-energy x-rays to safely and effectively kill cancer cells.

Radiation oncologists use radiation therapy to try to cure cancer, to control tumour growth or to relieve symptoms, such as pain.

Radiation therapy works within cancer cells by damaging their ability to multiply. When these cells die, the body naturally eliminates them.

A radiation-delivery machine (called a linear accelerator) focuses the radiation beam to a precise location for an exact period of time.

Radiation is given in daily treatments, Monday through Friday, for several weeks.

Possible side effects

The following side effects may occur during or within a few weeks of finishing treatment:

  • Fatigue or 'feeling tired' is common
  • The skin in the area being treated could become red and sore (like sunburn)
  • The treatment may cause nausea and vomiting
  • Hair loss in the pubic area. Hair will grow back after completion of treatment but may be thinner
  • During the last weeks of treatment, you may feel some irritation or soreness of the rectum. Your bowel movements may be more frequent, urgent, and painful, you may pass more wind than normal and you may notice blood or a clear discharge in your motions. Drink plenty of fluids, avoid spicy and fried foods
  • You may develop discomfort and a burning sensation when passing urine. You may pass urine more frequently and at night.

Occasionally a burning sensation may be experienced on ejaculation. There is no need to refrain from sexual activity either during or after treatment.

Your doctor or nurse will provide advice and treatment to deal with the side effects.

Long term side effects that may be permanent:

  • You may develop changes in your bowel motions, this can include urgency or a clear discharge in your motions
  • Bleeding from the rectum occurs in about 10% of men
  • Passing urine more often and urgency can sometimes develop
  • Approximately 50% of men who are sexually active before radiotherapy are still able to achieve an erection 2 years after radiotherapy has finished
  • Changes in bone strength (may be at risk of breaking a hip)

Our nurses are available to help you throughout your treatment and after completion. Do not be afraid to ask for help.

Helpful websites

Health insite
www.healthinsite.gov.au

Cancer institute of NSW
www.cancerinstitute.org.au

Cancer Council Tasmania
www.cancertas.org.au

Support Services

The following services are available to assist you during your treatment. Please ask staff for further details.

  • Social work
  • Dietitian
  • Cancer council transport
  • Look Good Feel Better program

Telephone Numbers

W.P Holman Clinic Reception
(03) 6166 8000

Radiation Therapy Scheduling
(03) 6166 2747


First Published: February 2010

Reviewed: February 2012