In cases where prostate cancer cannot be cured with surgery alone or for tumors that are either too small to see or are attached/close to vital tissues, intraoperative radiation therapy (IORT) can be an effective method in achieving long-term local tumor control. IORT is a type of radiation treatment that delivers a concentrated beam of radiation to tumors as they are located during surgery. Similar to image-guided radiation therapy, IORT allows physicians to administer high doses of radiation to tumors without exposing nearby healthy organs. What’s more, a single dose of intraoperative radiation may be equally effective as 10 to 20 daily traditional radiation treatments. This expedited treatment schedule limits the impact the treatment has on a patient’s life.
Before Intraoperative Radiation Therapy
IORT is used in conjunction with external radiation, which is done preoperatively to shrink the size of the cancer before surgery. Radiation therapy is typically delivered daily (five days per week) for approximately 5 to 9 weeks. Each visit takes about 20-30 minutes. You will hear mechanical sounds coming from the radiation machine, but the machine will not touch you and you will feel nothing during the treatment.
During Surgery and Intraoperative Radiation Therapy
During surgery, after the surgeon removes as much of the tumor as possible, a concentrated beam of radiation is delivered directly to the tumors. Special tubes are used to focus the beams safely on the tumor(s). Healthy organs are either shielded or moved out of the radiation field to prevent damage. The dose of IORT delivered depends on the tumor after surgery, the depth of the target volume, the location of healthy organs, and the degree of previous irradiation.
After Intraoperative Radiation Therapy
Early radiotherapy side effects include skin reactions, such as redness, rashes, and irritation, as well as fatigue, swelling, and tissue stiffness. Following the surgical procedure, you may have some soreness in the area where your stitches or staples are. You will be given medicine to help alleviate your pain and it is important for you to take the medicine as directed. It is a good idea to have someone help you with daily activities like buying groceries, cooking, and driving, so that you can rest, relax, and heal faster. You will meet with your doctor on a regular basis following treatment to discuss your progress.