Prostate Cancer Radiation Oncology Therapy

Radiation oncologists who treat prostate and urologic cancers at UPMC CancerCenter are experienced in the use of intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), image-guided radiotherapy (IGRT), and brachytherapy (prostate seed implant).

IMRT and IGRT for Prostate Cancer

IMRT and IGRT are two related technologies that can make radiation treatment both more effective and more precise than it was in the past. When used together, IGRT and IMRT can provide oncologists with both exact information prior to treatment and with a tool to provide skillful care based on that information.

IGRT is a system that tracks a tumor through the full course of treatment. Tumors often change shape and position due to therapy. When using IGRT, images are taken throughout treatment with a variety of imaging technologies, and those images are used by oncologists to guide the therapy. This way, treatment is based on new, accurate images rather than older images that may no longer reflect the tumor's anatomy.

IMRT is a highly precise radiation therapy that allows the beam to be shaped to better target the tumor. By allowing the beam to be shaped in a concave or convex manner, the dose to critical organs adjacent to the tumor can be lowered. In the treatment of prostate cancer, this technology allows for the prostate to be treated with very high doses of radiation, while minimizing damage to the rectum, bladder, and femoral heads. IMRT can potentially provide more effective treatment, and fewer side effects, than other types of radiotherapy.

Brachytherapy for Prostate Cancer

Brachytherapy is a type of radiation therapy in which radioactive metallic seeds, smaller than a grain of rice, are permanently placed inside the prostate gland

These seeds:

  • Deliver a high dose of radiation directly to the prostate gland and sometimes to the seminal vesicles.
  • Give off their radiation slowly over several months, and, within one year, their radiation completely decays.
  • Can remain in place for the rest of a person's life.

Brachytherapy is given with external radiation or by itself, depending on the stage of cancer.