Radiation Therapy for Prostate Cancer

UC San Diego's radiation oncologists treat prostate cancer, both as a primary treatment or in combination with surgery, hormone therapy or infusion therapy. Treatment options for patients include a variety of approaches, including intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), brachytherapy and proton therapy. 

IMRT conforms the radiation dose to the shape of the target tissues, minimizing radiation to nearby normal tissues, including the rectum and bladder. IMRT is associated with excellent outcomes with less toxicity. All patients receiving IMRT are also imaged while on the treatment table immediately prior to each radiation treatment. This imaging allows radiation oncologists to document any changes in the position of the prostate due to things like weight change, gas or a full bladder. The ability to adjust therapy for each treatment means that a higher radiation dose can be given with less damage to surrounding tissue. Learn more about image-guided radiation therapy.

Understand prostate cancer treatment options

Watch short video clips of our physicians explaining risk assessment, “watchful waiting,” radiation therapy, robotic surgery and more.

Brachytherapy for Prostate CancerAnother treatment option is brachytherapy, which involves implanting dozens of tiny radioactive seeds in the cancerous prostate. The seeds emit radiation for weeks or months, after which they are no longer radioactive. The radiation in the seeds can't be aimed as accurately as external beams, but are less likely to damage normal tissue. Once the seeds have lost their radioactivity, they become harmless and can stay in place indefinitely.

UC San Diego Health uses both low dose rate brachytherapy (LDR) and high dose rate brachytherapy to tailor a treatment that is right for you. HDR brachytherapy is typically combined with external bean radiotherapy to treat high-risk disease.

Proton therapy is yet another option for treating localized prostate cancer. The properties of protons depth dose curve make this treatment modality theoretically promising for many cancers, including prostate cancer. However, there is debate among the research community as to whether proton therapy, which is often not covered by insurance, translates into clinically meaningful improvements in patient outcomes. 

UC San Diego Health offers proton therapy at the Scripps Proton Therapy Center as an affiliate provider. Call 858-822-6040 to be seen by a UC San Diego Health physician and find out if proton therapy should be considered for you.