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The Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center

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Radiation Treatments

Radiation can be a treatment for slowing the growth or killing off tumors in early-stage cancers confined to the prostate gland; alone or in combination with other treatments such as hormone deprivation in more advanced cancers that may have spread beyond the prostate; or as a way to slow cancer growth and reduce pain in cases of advanced cancer.

Your prostate cancer team at Johns Hopkins may include radiation oncology specialists who use the most advanced radiation therapy techniques.

The two main types of radiation used for treating prostate cancer include:

  • External beam radiation: X-rays are targeted to tumor cells with guidance from CT scans and MRI. Oncologists can change the intensity of doses and radiation beams to better deliver high doses of radiation to tumor cells while delivering lower doses to cells close to the bladder and rectal tissue, minimizing damage to these surrounding tissues.
  • Brachytherapy: This technique is also sometimes called interstitial radiotherapy or internal radiotherapy. Tiny radioactive pellets are inserted into the prostate using needles that enter the skin behind the testicles. The pellets give off radiation to kill off the cancer cells around them for several months, until the radioactive material in the pellets has disappeared. Johns Hopkins radiation expert Danny Song and his colleagues have been testing robotic delivery of these seeds to minimize any damage to nerves that might affect erectile function. They are also studying the best ways to visualize the prostate to guide the seeds’ placement.

Stereotactic body radiation therapy, or SBRT, is another type of radiation therapy that delivers large doses of radiation over a short period of time to a precise area of a tumor or tissue, guided by advanced imaging techniques. Some advanced prostate cancer treatments may use SBRT to treat metastases of the cancer. Other common names for the therapy include Gamma Knife or CyberKnife.