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Radiation Therapy for Prostate Cancer

Stanley Liauw, MD

Radiation oncologists are specialists who use ionizing radiation to treat cancer. For prostate cancer, radiation therapy may be given as a curative treatment after initial diagnosis, or may be given after radical prostatectomy to either prevent or treat a recurrence. In certain cases, radiation therapy is combined with hormonal therapy to improve the chance for cure. At the University of Chicago Medicine, our radiation oncologists are part of the multidisciplinary care team that helps you decide on the best treatment for your prostate cancer.

Two major forms of radiation therapy which are used to treat prostate cancer include:

  • Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT) -- IMRT is a specialized type of external beam radiation therapy in which multiple beams of radiation are focused on the prostate cancer as well as tissues at risk for cancer involvement. Treatment is typically performed on an outpatient basis over 8 consecutive weeks. Advanced linear accelerators and sophisticated software help the radiation oncologist minimize the dose of radiation to normal tissues and offer better disease control with fewer side effects. »Read more about IMRT.
  • Brachytherapy (seed implant radiation therapy) -- Brachytherapy is an internal form of radiation therapy in which radioactive sources are implanted directly into the cancerous prostate. This is done in the operating room as an outpatient procedure in tandem with a urologist, under ultrasound guidance. Seeds containing Iodine-125 are permanently implanted. The radiation treatment occurs in a controlled fashion over several months with the intent of treating the prostate cancer cells without damaging surrounding healthy tissue.
Medical dosimetry Working closely with physicians, certified medical dosimetrists develop detailed radiation treatment plans.

At the Forefront of Radiation Therapy for Prostate Cancer

The University of Chicago Medicine has been at the forefront of developing innovative radiotherapy techniques for prostate and other cancers. Highlights include:

  • One of the first institutions to implement and report on the use of intensity-modulated radiation therapy for prostate cancer, which is now the standard of care for prostate cancer treated with external beam radiation therapy.
  • The development of novel methods of combining radiotherapy with a variety of medications to enhance the treatment’s effectiveness.
  • Innovative clinical trial options for men who have radiotherapy as their primary treatment or postoperatively.

In addition, our radiation oncologists maintain a detailed database of patient outcomes, which includes patient-reported quality of life after treatment. These outcomes are periodically analyzed to help guide patient expectations, and to explore possible ways to improve the efficacy and safety of treatment.

»Learn about radiation therapy for recurrent prostate cancer.

»Learn about radiation therapy for metastatic prostate cancer.


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