Radioisotope therapy for advanced prostate cancer

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

This treatment uses radioactive substances known as radioisotopes. Cancer cells absorb radioisotopes more than normal cells do. This means they get a higher dose of radiation to destroy them. All the bones affected by cancer will be treated. So, it can be very helpful if the cancer is in different areas of bone.

You may be given a radioisotope if hormonal therapy is no longer helping to control prostate cancer that has spread to the bone.

The radioisotopes that can be used are:

  • radium-223 (Xofigo®) – this is usually given once a month for 6 treatments
  • strontium-89 – this treatment can be repeated if you need it.

Before radioisotope therapy, you have a blood test to make sure your blood cells are at a normal level. This is because radioisotopes can reduce the number of your blood cells.

You have the treatment as an outpatient in the radiotherapy department and go home on the same day. The hospital will give you information about this treatment.

The radiographer will give you the radioisotope as an injection into a vein in your arm. This only takes a few minutes. When they are finished, they cover the area with a small plaster.

After you have had the injection, you will have some radioisotopes in your poo (bowel movement), urine, and blood. Because of this, there are certain precautions you need to take when you go to the toilet. This is to protect yourself and others from being exposed to the radiation. You only need to do this for a week. For example, they will ask you to sit down to use the toilet rather than use a urinal. It is still safe for you to be with other people, including children. The hospital staff will explain more about this.

Side effects

The side effects of radioisotope therapy are usually mild. You may have some diarrhoea or feel slightly sick. Your doctor can prescribe drugs to control these if needed.

The treatment can sometimes reduce the number of your blood cells for a short time. This is not usually a problem. But if you notice any unusual bruising or bleeding, contact the hospital straight away.

Back to Radiotherapy

External beam radiotherapy

External beam radiotherapy is the most common type of radiotherapy. A big machine directs external radiotherapy beams at the affected area.

Your radiotherapy team

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