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Common Myths About the Dangers of Radiation Therapy for Prostate Cancer

There are a number of myths surrounding the dangers of radiation treatment for prostate cancer.  Radiation therapy is an effective way to treat many different types of cancers with prostate cancer being one of the most effective. We at Chicago Prostate Cancer Center use various radiation therapy treatments on our patients, such as brachytherapy, aka internal radiation. However, despite research that has been available for over 10 years, there are still common misconceptions around the dangers that radiation therapy can cause to others.

Myth: There is Only One Type of Radiation Treatment for Prostate Cancer

False: There are two main types of radiation for prostate cancer treatment: brachytherapy - also known as internal radiation, and external beam radiation. You can probably already figure out the main differences just based on the names.

  1. Brachytherapy (internal radiation) involves placing radioactive seeds in the prostate gland permanently, where they slowly release radiation. The goal of internal radiation is to place the radiation close to the cancer cells, thus taking care of the bad cells and minimizing harm to healthy tissue.
  2. External Beam Radiation involves using an external radiation beam much like that of getting an x-ray. This method kills cancer cells by destroying the genetic material that controls how cells grow and divide. Healthy cells in the beam's path also are affected by external beam radiation therapy, resulting in side effects.

Myth: Loved Ones are at Risk of Radiation Exposure from Brachytherapy

In the past, people being treated for cancer with brachytherapy were often concerned that they would expose their other loved ones to radiation. It is widely known that exposure to high amounts of radiation can cause cancer and health defects, which makes this a valid concern. According to comprehensive research at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri, “The amount of radiation you will get from your husband [or loved one receiving brachytherapy] in one year is less than you would get from living in Denver for three or four months.”

The study goes on to state that, “People living at high altitudes or traveling in planes absorb more radiation because there is less of the protective atmosphere to shield them from solar radiation. At most, spouses [and loved ones] received radiation of 14 millirem, compared to the 50-85 millirem absorbed by a Denver native or the 20 millirem received on a round-trip flight between New York and Tokyo”.

Take notes during treatment:

As with any cancer treatment, it’s important to pay close attention to your body and take thorough notes. The more information that you share with your doctor, the more informed they will be during the diagnosis and treatment process! Here are a few tips:

  • Track your side effects: keep a log of your side effects and include date and time and any other relevant information. Take them with you to your appointments and discuss all of it with your doctor.
  • Keep a pain diary: there are a number of different ways to manage pain during treatment. Giving your health care team thorough information will help them help you.

At Chicago Prostate Cancer Center we are constantly working to pursue better methods to improve treatment outcomes while enhancing patient quality of life. Our dedicated staff members work tirelessly with this goal in mind. Call 630 654-2515 to get started.

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