Doctors sometimes recommend radiation therapy after a prostatectomy for cancer that has a high risk of returning. Radiation therapy is also used to treat cancer that has returned after surgery.
Prostate cancer that’s limited to the prostate is often treated with surgery. The
If your cancer has a high risk of coming back after surgery, your doctor may recommend radiation therapy to kill any remaining cancer cells that might not be detected. Radiation therapy may also be an effective second therapy if your cancer returns.
In this article, we examine when doctors may recommend radiation therapy after prostatectomy.
Radiation therapy is used in two main ways after surgery:
- Adjuvant therapy is used to destroy cancer cells that may not have been removed during surgery before there’s evidence of reoccurrence confirmed with a prostate specific antigen (PSA) test.
- Salvage therapy is used to destroy cancer cells once there’s evidence that the cancer has come back confirmed with a PSA test.
Adjuvant radiation therapy
The primary goal of adjuvant radiation therapy after prostate surgery is to eradicate cancer cells that are not detectable and to prevent reoccurrence. It’s primarily offered to people whose cancer is deemed at
It’s not widely used in people whose cancer typically has a low risk of returning to
Your doctor may recommend adjuvant radiation therapy if you have:
- Localized prostate cancer: This is cancer that has not spread beyond your prostate.
- Locally advanced cancer: This is cancer that has spread to nearby tissues.
Radiation therapy is usually administered within
Salvage radiation therapy
Salvage therapy is administered after biochemical failure. Biochemical failure means that your PSA levels are abnormal, suggesting that your cancer has returned.
Clinicians and researchers still
Radiation therapy can cause bowel, urinary tract, and sexual health problems. Possible
- bowel problems such as:
- urinary problems such as:
- urethral stricture, closing of the urethra
- trouble maintaining an erection firm enough for sexual intercourse
Doctors usually administer radiation therapy in
If radiation therapy is not effective, doctors rarely perform another round since additional radiation can
Doctors may sometimes administer internal radiation therapy if you previously received external beam radiation therapy.
Radiation therapy after surgery can be very effective in treating cancer confined to the prostate or surrounding area.
The effectiveness of adjuvant radiation therapy is
The 5-year event free survival rate was only 1% higher among people who received radiation therapy before symptoms developed compared to people who received radiation afterward at 89% versus 88%.
The 5-year event free survival rate is a measure of how many people do not have cancer progression for 5 years.
Radiation therapy is sometimes given before surgery to help shrink the cancer and make it easier to treat. Radiation therapy administered in this way is called neoadjuvant therapy.
Neoadjuvant radiation therapy may be administered alone or with:
The use of neoadjuvant radiation therapy is still under investigation. Current research suggests that it may not be linked to better cancer outcomes than surgery alone.
Radiation therapy is sometimes administered after surgery to treat prostate cancer if it has a high risk of reoccurring. Radiation therapy can destroy remaining cancer cells that may not be detectable.
Doctors also use radiation therapy to treat prostate cancer that has returned after surgery. When it’s used in this way, it’s called salvage therapy.
Your care team can help you determine if radiation therapy is treatment option.