A panel of experts from the American Society for Radiation Oncology, American Society of Clinical Oncology and the American Urological Association has concluded that men being treated for early-stage prostate cancer with external beam radiation therapy (EBRT) can safely choose an option that reduces the number of treatment sessions. This new guideline developed for doctors who treat men with prostate cancer was published October 11, 2018 in Practical Radiation Oncology, Journal of Clinical Oncology, and The Journal of Urology.
For those men that have been diagnosed with prostate cancer while it’s still at an early stage, they often have several treatment options, including active surveillance (also called watchful waiting), surgery, or radiation. All these options have about the same cure rates for the earliest stage prostate cancers. Each type of treatment has pros and cons.
(ERBT) or external beam radiation therapy, is a type of radiation therapy used to treat prostate cancer. This involves using a machine that focuses beams of radiation on the prostate gland to kill the cancer cells. Most patients typically receive treatments 5 days a week for several weeks. This new guideline uses hypofractionated radiation, where external beam radiation is given in larger doses and fewer treatments. When men are treated with this shortened approach, they can typically expect to complete treatment in 4 to 5 weeks, compared with 8 to 9 weeks for conventional EBRT. There is another option called ultrahypofractionated therapy which increases the radiation dose even further and this can be completed in as few as 5 treatments.
To develop this new guideline, the panel reviewed more than 60 journal articles published between December 2001 and March 2017. They ultimately concluded that hypofractionated radiation therapy is a safe option. They found that the cure rates and side effects are very similar to a conventional ERBT treatment schedule. There is, however, a slightly greater risk of severe gastrointestinal complications with hypofractionated radiation therapy.
According to the panel, the benefits of a shorter radiation schedule include more convenience for patients and reduced use of medical resources.