for electron beam radiation therapy. The electron beam
is generated by a linear accelerator and is aimed at
the cancerous prostate tissue as a high energy x-ray
or a photon radiation wave. Electron beam radiation
therapy is one of the oldest prostate cancer radiation
Most radiation treatment centers
in the United States however are now using 3D-CRT rather
than EBRT. IMRT (intensity modulated radiation therapy)
is likely to replace 3D-CRT. EBRT is still used however
because the methods used to depict cancerous versus
healthy tissue are considered highly effective.
What happens before EBRT?
The planning stage is the most important part of external
radiation therapy because planning allows for a precise
radiation beam. The more precise the beam, the higher
the dose of radiation and the lower the occurrence of
side effects. The radiation oncologist will take a x-ray
of the pelvic area and will usually use a radiopaque
material to differentiate between structures like the
rectum and bladder. Radiopaque material is opaque to
the radiation and will show up clearly on the x-ray.
During the planning stage, the patient goes through
a dry run so he knows exactly what to expect during
the prostate cancer radiation treatments.
The patient is placed in the supine
position, or face up, within an immobilization device.
An immobilization device may be a bagged filled with
a chemical that will turn into Styrofoam or a bag of
Styrofoam pellets from which air is pulled out. Both
procedures create a mold that conforms to either the
patient’s body or the pelvic area to prevent movement
during treatment with the beam. The areas to be treated
are then outlined with indelible or permanent tattoos
about the size of the head of a pin.
What happens during EBRT?
The prostate cancer patient is asked to undress from
the waist down and is given a towel or gown with which
to cover himself as he lies down on the treatment table.
A radiation therapist may spend 10 minutes or more properly
arranging his body to make the radiation beam hit the
target exactly. Some radiation centers use B-mode acquisition
and targeting which uses ultrasonography to locate the
treated area which can move according to the fullness
of the rectum or the bladder.
Patients will neither see nor feel
anything. Prostate cancer radiation treatments with
the external are completely painless. Patients will
hear a whirring sound of the linear accelerator as it
sends the beam into the body. The treatment should take
45 minutes or less and is administered Monday through
Friday for 5 to 9 weeks depending on the patient’s
What happens after EBRT?
As patients enter the final weeks of treatment, they
are likely to feel fatigued or tired. They may also
be experiencing irritation in their bowels or possible
nausea. Some patients will experience proctitis which
is an irritation of the rectum, anal sphincter, or both.
Click to read more about Prostate
Cancer Radiation Treatment Side Effects. Patients,
however, should not be experiencing pain due to prolonged
exposure to the radioactive beam. Patients receive a
follow-up every 3 to 6 months for PSA tests and DRE’s.
What is Neoadjuvant Hormone
Therapy for Radiation Therapy?
Prostate cancer entails the growth of the prostate gland.
If the gland is too large, the patient is placed on
hormone therapy before beginning radiation therapy.
Hormone therapy shrinks the prostate gland by the denying
the cells testosterone. Once the volume of the prostate
gland is within acceptable parameters, radiation therapy
begins. Glands that are too large can be treated by
the beam, however, patients with enlarged glands are
more likely to expose healthy tissues such as that of
the bladder or the rectum to the effects of the beam.