External beam radiotherapy for advanced prostate cancer

You can have external beam radiotherapy as an outpatient in the radiotherapy department. Some people may need to stay in hospital while they have it. Radiotherapy is given using a machine that is like a big x-ray machine. This is called a linear accelerator (often called a LINAC).

You may have external beam radiotherapy as a single treatment or as a few sessions over a few weeks.

At the beginning of a treatment session (called a fraction), the radiographer will make sure you are in the correct position on the couch and that you are comfortable. Radiotherapy is not painful. But you have to lie still during the treatment. You may want to take your painkillers before you have it.

When everything is ready, the radiographer leaves the room so you can have radiotherapy. The treatment only takes a few minutes. You can talk to the radiographers through an intercom or signal to them during the treatment. They can see and hear you from the next room.

Your cancer doctor, nurse, or radiographer will explain your treatment and its possible side effects. They can give you advice to help you cope with any side effects. They can also help answer any questions you may have.

Side effects

The side effects of palliative radiotherapy are usually mild. They will depend on the area of the body that is being treated.

Feeling very tired is a common side effect. This should gradually improve a few weeks after treatment finishes. Try to pace yourself and get as much rest as you need. It helps to balance this with some gentle exercise, such as short walks, if possible.

You may feel sick if the area treated is close to your tummy, for example the ribs or spine. Your doctor can prescribe anti-sickness drugs to control any sickness.

If you only have 1 or 2 treatment sessions, you may have flu-like symptoms for a few days afterwards.

Always tell your nurse or radiographer about any side effects. There are usually ways to treat or manage them.

Coping with fatigue

Denton describes how he coped with fatigue (tiredness) during his treatment for prostate cancer.

About our cancer information videos

Coping with fatigue

Denton describes how he coped with fatigue (tiredness) during his treatment for prostate cancer.

About our cancer information videos

Back to Radiotherapy

Radioisotope therapy

Radioisotope therapy can be used to treat prostate cancer that has spread to the bones.

Your radiotherapy team

You will meet many different specialists from your radiotherapy team. You may see them before, during and after radiotherapy treatment.