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Prostate Cancer Radiation Side Effects



Prostate Cancer Radiation Side Effects
Radiation therapy is one of the effective treatment measures for curing prostate cancer. However, people who are considering radiation therapy ought to know about its various side effects. This article would give you detailed information on prostate cancer radiation side effects.During the last several years, many men in America have been diagnosed with prostate cancer, making it one of the most common types of cancer that affects men. A person is said to have prostate cancer when the prostate gland present in man's reproductive system is affected by cancerous cells. It is usually found in men above 65 years, but there have also been cases where even younger men have been diagnosed with prostate cancer.

Though it is a serious disease, with the advancement of technology there are a variety of treatment measures that aid in treating prostate cancer. The two most popular ways of treating prostate cancer are surgery and radiation therapy. The treatment measure used would vary from person to person. For some, only surgery would be used, while for others radiation therapy would be the most effective. Sometimes, the treatment would be a combination of both surgery and radiation. Other treatment measures for prostate cancer include chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, etc.

Radiation therapy, like surgery for prostate cancer aims at destroying the cancerous cells present in the prostate gland. Though radiation therapy is an effective way of treating prostate cancer, it is accompanied with a variety of side effects. However, before we look at the prostate cancer radiation side effects, it is important to know about the two types of radiation therapy available for treating prostate cancer.

Types of Radiation Therapy for Prostate Cancer

External Radiation Therapy: This is a form of radiation therapy that is done by exposing the radiation to the affected area externally. This therapy, which is also known as radiotherapy is actually a painless procedure, however the treatment has to be done for five days a week and it takes almost 5-6 weeks for the whole procedure to get over. During this treatment, the external part of the cancerous area is marked and radiation beam is exposed to that part. The specialist would monitor the cancerous cells before and after every radiation therapy.

Internal Radiation Therapy: As the name suggests, internal radiation therapy is where the treatment is done directly. In this form of radiation therapy, certain seeds that possesses radioactive energy are inserted into the prostate. The seeds emit radiation for some time and once the radiation effect dies down, the seeds lie in the prostate gland harmlessly. This treatment procedure which is also known as prostate brachytherapy takes only an hour and unlike external radiation therapy, the patient does not require to visit the specialist more than once. Hence, more and more people are going for internal radiation therapy. However, doctors do not recommend this treatment for people who have reached very advanced stages of prostate cancer.

Side Effects of Radiation Therapy for Prostate Cancer

Though there have been many cases where radiation therapy has helped in treating prostate cancer effectively, most people experience certain side effects after doing radiation therapy. When therapy is done, the radiation is likely to affect the vital organs that surround the prostate gland, leading to other health problems.
One of the common side effect experienced by most people while going through a radiation therapy for prostate cancer is extreme fatigue or tiredness. During the treatment, the patient should take ample amount of rest and should structure his routine so that he takes frequent naps. Following a healthy diet would also help in fighting the fatigue. This is not a permanent phenomenon and would go away 2 - 3 months after the therapy is completed.
Incontinence is one of the very serious prostate cancer radiation therapy side effects. During the radiation therapy, along with the prostate gland, sometimes the urinary sphincter is also exposed to radiation, thus damaging it. A person suffering from incontinence may have the frequent urge to urinate and may not be able to control himself from wetting his pants. Though this is usually a temporary matter, there have been cases where this problem continues for a long time and requires a surgery for completely curing it.
Another major side effect of radiation therapy of prostate cancer is impotence. Patients of prostate cancer have been observed to have suffered from erectile dysfunction after going through radiation therapy. If during the therapy, the testicles are exposed to the radiation, it may kill the sperms leading to infertility. Though erectile dysfunction can be treated with the help of medications, there is no cure for infertility. Young men who are going for radiation therapy should talk to the health specialist about freezing their sperms for the future.
Radiation therapy can also cause problems in the bowel movements of the patient. Many have experienced frequent bowel urgency, pain during defecating, diarrhea, etc., after undergoing radiation therapy for prostate cancer. This happens if the rectal area is affected by radiation. In most cases, this can be treated with medications. However, there are many men who have these problems for the rest of their lives.
Apart from all these prostate cancer treatment side effects, tissue damage is a very rare but possible prostate cancer radiation therapy side effect. Radiation therapy can cause damage to tissues of the rectum, bladder, etc., which have to be corrected with surgical treatment.
These are some of the prostate cancer radiation side effects that can affect a patient. Awareness of these side effects of radiation therapy for prostate cancer can help a person in asking for immediate help, in case he experiences any of them.