Radiotherapy uses high energy rays to destroy cancer cells. At the same time, doctors try to make sure radiotherapy causes as little harm as possible to healthy tissue and organs close by. These include the bladder, back passage (rectum) and bowel.
Radiotherapy for prostate cancer can be given in different ways:
- External beam radiotherapy – radiotherapy is given from outside the body (externally) from a radiotherapy machine.
- Brachytherapy – radiotherapy is given from inside the body (internally).
External beam radiotherapy is the most common way of giving radiotherapy for early prostate cancer and locally advanced prostate cancer. If you have brachytherapy, it may be given on its own or along with external radiotherapy.
We have information on radiotherapy for advanced prostate cancer.
Your cancer doctor may advise you to have hormonal therapy for up to 6 months before radiotherapy. Hormonal therapy can shrink the cancer, which helps make radiotherapy more effective. You may be given hormonal therapy before, during and after radiotherapy.
Radiotherapy to the prostate causes different side effects. Most of these usually improve gradually after treatment has finished. Always tell your cancer team about your side effects. There is often something they can do to improve them. They can give you advice on how to manage them.
If you smoke, you should try to stop. Not smoking during and after radiotherapy can make treatment more effective and reduce the side effects.
Many hospitals provide help or advice on how to quit smoking. Ask your cancer doctor, radiographer or specialist nurse if your hospital provides this service. If they do not, your GP, a pharmacist or an organisation such as Smokefree will be able to help. We have more information to help you give up smoking.
We have more information on the side effects of external beam radiotherapy.