Advanced Radiation Treatment for Prostate Cancer
Targeted proton beam therapy for prostate cancer can mean less risk of radiation to surrounding areas, potentially fewer side effects than X-ray radiation and a higher chance of curing or controlling the cancer.
About proton therapy for prostate cancer
The prostate is located near several of the most sensitive organs and tissues in men, including the bladder, rectum, and structures critical for erectile function. Prostate tumors typically require high doses of radiation to treat and, because of their location, targeting them can be especially challenging, because:
- Radiation to healthy tissues around prostate tumors can raise the risk of erectile dysfunction due to decreased testosterone levels, as well as urinary and rectal problems and gastrointestinal disorders.
- Other side effects may include, urinary and rectal problems and gastrointestinal disorders
- If prostate cancer comes back after radiation therapy, a second round of treatment with X-ray radiation may be too risky.
In some cases, with any radiation techniques, the potential for serious complications can be high. This can lead to a difficult choice between giving:
- a less-than-optimal dose to the tumor (which reduces the chance of a cure); or
- an ideal dose to the tumor with a higher risk of radiation to healthy tissues.
World class expertise
An internationally recognized expert in proton therapy, Carl Rossi, MD, has personally treated more than 9,000 prostate cancer patients with proton radiation over the last 20 years — more than any other physician in the world.
Benefits of proton therapy for prostate cancer
Proton therapy is an extremely precise form of radiation treatment that can target prostate tumors. Because proton beams can be meticulously controlled and deposit their maximum energy directly in the tumor, exposure to fragile healthy tissues in and around the prostate can be reduced.
Other benefits of proton therapy for treating prostate cancer include:
- Higher cure rates. In many cases, advanced proton therapy allows doctors to more selectively deliver high-dose radiation to cancerous prostate gland cells, without overdosing the surrounding critical organs and tissues. In one study, 97 percent of 4,000 patients who received proton treatment for prostate cancer had not suffered a recurrence; many of the cancer-free patients had completed treatment as long as 10 years earlier.
- No effect on testosterone levels. A 2013 study found no significant changes in testosterone levels in low- and intermediate-risk prostate cancer patients who had received proton radiation treatment.
- Reduced radiation to surrounding tissues. Our precisely targeted pencil-beam scanning technique (IMPT) further reduces the amount of radiation to surrounding tissues, even when compared with conventional passively scattered protons. The reach of the radiation dose from pencil-beam scanning that extends outside of the target has been shown to be substantially smaller than both passively scattered protons and intensity-modulated X-ray therapy (IMRT). One study found significantly lower radiation exposure to the rectum and bladder with proton therapy than with IMRT.
- Lower risk of second cancers. Many studies have shown patients who received X-ray radiation therapy have an increased rate of secondary cancer (cancer caused by radiation) in surrounding tissues. Because proton therapy lowers the radiation dose to normal tissue, studies predict a lower risk of secondary cancer.
- Safer for recurring cancers. Because proton therapy can better concentrate its radiation dose to the tumor and limit it elsewhere, it is ideally suited for treating areas that have previously received X-ray radiation therapy. Treating previously radiated areas is challenging and very risky with any radiation therapy. Tissues around a recurrent tumor don’t “forget” the previous radiation dose, and any added dose continues to increase the risk of injury to healthy, normal tissue. By reducing the radiation dose to these previously treated tissues, protons can help reduce (but not eliminate) some of the risks associated with re-irradiation.
When you are living with prostate cancer, you may need more than expert medical treatment. Our staff is here to help you and your family every step of the way, from scheduling appointments and answering questions to finding support services and other resources.
We offer a wide variety of support services for patients recovering from prostate cancer treatment, including:
- Support groups, including the Scripps Proton Therapy Center’s Prostate Cancer Discussion Group. For more information, call 858-549-7400
- Home health care services
- Nutrition services through Scripps Center for Weight Management and Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine
- Psychological and emotional care
- Complementary cancer care provided through Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine
Proton therapy is a highly precise form of external radiation therapy that can be used for tumor control in select patients. All cancer treatments have advantages and disadvantages. Be sure to discuss these, as well as your treatment options, with your cancer specialist.
Evidence Supporting Proton Therapy for Prostate Cancer
- Quality of life and toxicity from passively scattered and spot-scanning proton beam therapy for localized prostate cancer
- Comparison of conventional-dose vs high-dose conformal radiation therapy in clinically localized adenocarcinoma of the prostate
- Comparison of high-dose proton radiotherapy and brachytherapy in localized prostate cancer: a case-matched analysis
- Erectile function, incontinence, and other quality of life outcomes following proton therapy for prostate cancer in men 60 years old and younger
- Hypofractionated passively scattered proton radiotherapy for low-and intermediate-risk prostate cancer is not associated with post-treatment testosterone suppression
- Patient-reported long-term outcomes after conventional and high-dose combined proton and photon radiation for early prostate cancer