Prostate Cancer Therapy: Brachytherapy

Prostate cancer can be treated in a variety of ways. The method or methods employed depend both on the nature of the cancer and the desires of the patient.

What is Prostate Cancer Therapy?

In addition to surgery, there are several types of therapy that can be used to treat prostate cancer. These include radiation therapy, hormone therapy, and chemotherapy. These therapies may be used in isolation or in combination with each other.

Prostate Cancer Therapy at Brigham and Women's Hospital

Here are the main types of prostate cancer therapy that are offered at Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH):

Radiation therapy is used to either kill or shrink prostate cancer cells, and to decrease their ability to divide. These high-energy rays are often used to treat prostate cancer that is still confined to the prostate gland, or has spread only to nearby tissue. If the disease has spread further, radiation may be used to reduce the size of the tumor and to provide relief from symptoms. Here are the types of radiation therapy commonly used at BWH:

  • External radiation therapy (external beam therapy) sends high levels of radiation directly to the cancer cells in single doses.

    Intense modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) is a type of external beam therapy that uses computer guidance to deliver precise radiation doses to specific areas within a tumor.
  • Internal radiation therapy (implant therapy) involves the implantation of seeds that emit radiation.

    High-dose rate (HDR) brachytherapy is an advanced type of internal radiation therapy (implant therapy) being used at BWH. During this treatment, high doses of radiation are delivered in a short time (approximately ten minutes), with minimal risk to nearby organs. In our state-of-the-art HDR brachytherapy and operating suite, a computer-controlled tiny radioactive seed is placed inside the body near the site of the cancer. CT scanning is used to plan treatment and to guide accurate placement of the seeds during the procedure. Another advanced type of internal radiation therapy being used at BWH is robotic transrectal ultrasound (TRUS) guided radiation therapy, which inserts tiny radioactive seeds directly into the prostate gland through small needles. The radiation oncologist uses an ultrasound video image to see the prostate during treatment and to make sure that the seeds are implanted correctly. Robotic guidance is used to assist with needle navigation and accurate placement of the seeds.

Hormone therapy is used to lower the level of male hormones in the body. This can shrink prostate cancer or slow its growth. The following hormone therapy options are available at BWH:

  • Orchiectomy is the surgical removal of the testicles to stop production of hormones that stimulate prostate cancer cells.
  • LHRH (luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone) analogs are drugs that suppress testosterone production.
  • Anti-androgens block the body's ability to use testosterone.

Chemotherapy is the use of drugs to slow or stop tumor growth and relieve pain.

Angiogenesis inhibitors may prevent cancer growth by stopping the formation of new blood vessels, which deprives the cancer of oxygen and nutrients.

Urological Care at Brigham and Women's Hospital

Urology at BWH continues to play a leadership role in developing new therapies for prostate cancer, benign prostate disease, and bladder dysfunction. Members of our clinical staff are all on the faculty of Harvard Medical School and are international leaders in treating benign and malignant prostate, bladder, testicle, and renal conditions, and men’s sexual dysfunction. Our services include urologic oncology, men's sexual health, and urodynamics.

Our researchers are international leaders in molecular genetics, image-guided radiotherapy, tumor markers, and surgical robotics.

Much of our staff, under the direction of the Chief of Urology, Adam Kibel, MD, acts as the surgical oncology team for the Genitourinary Cancer Treatment Program at the Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center. This cancer center brings together genitourinary, radiation, and medical oncologists with urological surgeons to treat patients as one medical team.

Patient- and Family-focused Care

BWH has long been committed to not only the care of our patients but also the many other needs that they and their families have. This philosophy of patient- and family-focused care - involving systems and services that emphasize healing in a comfortable, relaxed environment – is a guiding force behind the care we provide at the Department of Urology.

Quality of Patient Care

BWH is committed to providing all of our patients with the safest, highest-quality, most-satisfying care possible and follow established protocols that have been shown to improve patient outcomes. Our Inpatient Satisfaction Survey, sent to patients’ to assess their total care experience, helps us to monitor what we are doing well and where we could improve. We pride ourselves in the Quality of Patient Care we provide and how we compare with other hospitals.

Brigham and Women's Hospital Urology Team

The urology team at Brigham and Women's Hospital features internationally recognized physicians who are all faculty at Harvard Medical School. Together they continue to build on our long and distinguished history by offering innovative, compassionate, and patient-centered care, and pioneering groundbreaking advances in the treatment of all urological conditions. Meet our urology team.

Contact Us

If you believe you should have an evaluation and would like to schedule an appointment with one of our urological experts, call 1-800-294-9999 to speak to one of our knowledgeable coordinators who can help to connect you to the doctor that best meets your needs, or fill out an online appointment request form.

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