External beam radiation for prostate cancer

External beam radiation for prostate cancer uses high-energy X-rays to kill cancer cells. During external beam radiation for prostate cancer, the high-energy beams are generated by a machine called a linear accelerator that aims the beams at your prostate gland.

External beam radiation for prostate cancer kills cancer cells by destroying the genetic material that controls how cells grow and divide. Healthy cells in the beam's path also are affected by external beam radiation therapy, resulting in side effects. The goal of external beam radiation for prostate cancer is to destroy the cancerous cells while sparing as much of the normal surrounding tissue as possible.

External beam radiation for prostate cancer is one of the standard treatment options to treat prostate cancer. It may also be used for men who have prostate cancer that comes back after surgery.


Why it's done Risks How you prepare What you can expect Results

Your doctor may recommend external beam radiation for prostate cancer as an option at different times during your cancer treatment and for different reasons, including:

  • As the only (primary) treatment for cancer, usually for early-stage cancer that is confined to your prostate
  • In combination with other treatments, such as hormone therapy, for more serious cancer that's still confined to your prostate
  • After surgery, to reduce the risk of cancer returning (adjuvant therapy)
  • After surgery, when there is indication that your cancer has recurred either in the form of increased levels of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) in your blood or clinical evidence of cancer in your pelvis.
  • To alleviate symptoms, such as bone pain, caused by advanced cancer that has spread beyond the prostate
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