Now higher doses of radiation can be delivered to targeted areas in fewer radiation treatment sessions with hypofractionated radiation therapy. This short-course radiation therapy is giving prostate cancer patients new hope for treating tumors that were previously diagnosed as inoperable or untreatable. Through pencil-thin beams of radiation, systems like the CyberKnife® are able to direct radiation to any part of the body from any direction through a robotic arm. Healthy tissues and organs surrounding the cancer cells only receive a small fraction of the high central dose used for the targeted irradiation, which results in fewer side effects when compared to conventional radiation therapy.
Before Hypofractionated Radiation Therapy
If it has been established by your physician and/or radiation oncologist that hypofractionated radiation therapy is a suitable treatment option for your prostate cancer, you will undergo a series of imaging procedures, such as CT, MRI, or PET scans. This is done to determine the exact size, shape, and location of the tumor, as well as its proximity to surrounding vital structures. Your radiation oncologist will then review these images and generate an individualized treatment plan, which will include the desired radiation dose and the number, duration, and angles of the delivery of radiation beams.
During Hypofractionated Radiation Therapy
When you arrive for your treatment session, you may be asked to change into a medical gown. A nurse who is a part of your care team will assist you onto the treatment table and into position. You may hear mechanical sounds as the robotic arm moves around you, but the procedure is painless and noninvasive. Each treatment session will last between 30 and 90 minutes, depending on the type of tumor. Treatment may be delivered in sessions over several days or it may be limited to a one-time occurrence.
After Hypofractionated Radiation Therapy
Generally, patients are able to resume normal activities after the completion of hypofractionated radiation therapy. Following this treatment regimen, you will undergo follow-up monitoring through CT, MRI, and/or PET scanning to access the tumor’s response to the delivered radiation. You will meet with your physician or radiation oncologist to discuss your progress and next steps.