Radiotherapy for advanced prostate cancer

Radiotherapy uses high-energy rays to destroy cancer cells. Doctors use it in different situations to treat advanced prostate cancer.

It is most often used to shrink cancer that has spread to the bones. It is used to strengthen the bone and reduce pain. This helps you to keep you as active as possible without being in pain. Sometimes treatment to the bones may also help you live longer.

Radiotherapy can also help to relieve pain if the cancer is in a lymph node or pressing on the back passage (rectum). It can also help control bleeding in the urine (pee).

Radiotherapy to relieve your symptoms is called palliative radiotherapy.

Radiotherapy to treat advanced prostate cancer can be given in two ways:

Your pain may get better within a couple of days of treatment, or it may take a couple of weeks for pain to improve. It may be up to 6 weeks before you feel the full benefit. Sometimes, the pain may get worse before it gets better.

You will need to keep taking painkillers during this time. Tell your cancer doctor or nurse if the pain gets worse, so they can increase your painkillers. When the treatment has worked, they can reduce them.

Spinal cord compression

If a tumour is close to or pressing on the spinal cord, it is called spinal cord compression. Doctors can treat this with a short course of external radiotherapy to the spine. You may have one single treatment or up to 2 weeks of radiotherapy.

Spinal cord compression causes symptoms, such as:

  • a new pain in your neck or back
  • numbness or pins and needles in your feet or hands
  • difficulty walking.

Spinal cord compression is not common, but it needs to be treated quickly to prevent permanent damage to the nerves. Always tell your doctor straight away if you have any of these symptoms.

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.

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.