Radiation Therapy for Prostate Cancer

Multidisciplinary Care

Radiation oncologists at the University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center work together with doctors who specialize in different medical areas to provide treatment that is individualized and well-coordinated.

Learn more about comprehensive prostate services provided by UW Health.

UW Health radiation therapists play an important role in the treatment of prostate cancer. External beam radiation therapy can be used alone or in combination with temporary hormonal therapy to treat newly diagnosed prostate cancer. Prostate brachytherapy (prostate seeds) is another attractive treatment approach for early stage prostate cancer.


External beam radiation therapy is also sometimes given after a patient undergoes a radical prostatectomy when either the findings at surgery indicate that there is a high risk for cancer recurrence or, alternatively, the PSA, the blood test for prostate cancer, starts to rise after, indicating that the prostate cancer is returning. UW Health radiation oncologists will discuss your condition and make recommendations for your care.


Learn about radiation oncology at the UW Carbone Cancer.


Radiation Treatment Options


External Beam Radiation Therapy


External beam radiation therapy for prostate cancer is generally given using intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) techniques as well as image guided radiation therapy (IGRT) to deliver treatments that tightly conform to the shape of the prostate while minimizing the radiation received by other nearby organs.


While adequate, direct comparisons with the outcomes seen after surgery remain elusive. Most available information suggests that external beam radiotherapy and surgery produce very similar cancer cure rates.


Hypofractionated Radiation Therapy


There is increasing evidence that delivering fewer but stronger individual doses of radiation may improve cancer control and reduce side effects. The University of Wisconsin-Madison has been a leader in investigating this approach, which offers shortened duration treatments and the associated added convenience for patients.


For example, while external beam radiation therapy is delivered over a period lasting up to 8-1/2 weeks at most centers, shorter courses of 5-1/2 weeks or less are available at the University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center.


Brachytherapy for Prostate Cancer (Prostate Seed Implantation)


Radioactive "seed" implants or prostate brachytherapy may offer an effective treatment option for men with early stage prostate cancer that is less disruptive to their lives than standard radiation treatment. After a prostate cancer diagnosis, UW Health physicians can plan and perform brachytherapy in two short hospital visits. Conventional radiation therapy requires 35 to 44 separate one-half hour visits, and surgery for removal of the prostate requires three days in the hospital. Prostate brachytherapy also allows the patient to leave the hospital the day of the implantation and carries no risk to family members.


Adjuvant or Salvage Radiation Therapy


A significant proportion of patients with newly diagnosed prostate cancer of initially treated with a radical prostatectomy, either open or now more commonly, robot assisted. While most such patients subsequently have not recurrence of their disease, certain unfavorable characteristic of the tumor found from analysis of the surgical specimen place that individual at a significantly higher risk for cancer recurrence.


In these non-ideal situations, it has been found that the addition of external beam radiation therapy after the surgery can significantly reduce the risk of a cancer recurrence. This is called adjuvant therapy.


In other situations, the PSA can start rising after a radial prostatectomy and external beam radiation can be applied as so-called “salvage” treatment, and can often return the PSA back to an undetectable level.


Radiation Oncology Doctors

Mark A. Ritter, MD, PhD