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WHAT TO DO IF YOU HAVE PROSTATE CANCER: RADIATION THERAPY

Radiation therapy involves the use of high-energy rays aimed at a specific area of the body to bombard and kill cancer cells. Most malignant cells are less able to repair radiation damage than normal cells.

A big advantage of radiation therapy is that it can be done on an outpatient basis, which is less costly than hospitalization. Each treatment takes about five to fifteen minutes, and the patient comes in for treatment five days a week for six to seven weeks.

By extending the period of time, the doses of radiation can remain small. This helps to prevent any adverse side effects to the rectum or bladder. It is also more effective in killing die cancer cells gradually over a period of time. Once the treatment is finished, no radioactivity remains.

Some doctors question whether this procedure actually kills the cells or just inhibits them from continuing their destruction. But most patients feel that if radiation therapy can allow them to live out their normal life span without symptoms, it is worthwhile.

One major disadvantage of radiation therapy is that the lymph nodes cannot be evaluated to see if the treatment is the correct one. It does not make sense to undergo this form of treatment and be subjected to the expense and discomfort unless the nodes can be identified to reasonably assure that the patient will benefit. The patient will have to be monitored via PSA tests to see if the cancer becomes active again.

Radiation therapy can also cause bladder, stomach, and intestinal discomfort, but this will usually go away. One unfounded fear is that it will cause the patient to go bald. If he does lose a little hair, it will be in die pubic area, where die beams of radiation are directed.

There is the danger that some of the rays may miss their intended target and damage healthy cells nearby. However, the healthy cells are better able to recover if the doses of radiation are small and are spread out over time. Radiation treatment may cause erectile dysfunction and impotence in approximately 25 to 50 percent of patients, but there is less than a 5 percent danger of incontinence.

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Men's Health Erectile Dysfunction


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