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Radiating the Cancerous Prostate

Patients may have the option of using radiation to treat their prostate cancer. The two forms of radiation are external beam radiation and radioactive seed implants (also known as brachytherapy). When prostate cancer is localized, radiation therapy serves as an alternative to surgery.

External beam radiation therapy is also commonly used to treat men with regional disease, whose cancers have spread too widely in the pelvis to be removed surgically, but show no evidence of spreading to the lymph nodes. The goal of radiation therapy is to kill the cancer cells.

External Beam Radiation Therapy

External beam radiation therapy generally involves treatments of 5 days a week for 6 or 7 weeks. In many cases, if the tumor is large, hormone therapy may be started at the time of radiation therapy and continued for several years. The primary target is the prostate gland itself. In addition, the seminal vesicles may be irradiated (since they are a relatively common site of cancer spread).

Radioactive Seed Implants

Radiation can also be delivered to the prostate in the form of dozens of tiny radioactive seeds implanted directly into the prostate gland. This approach, known as interstitial implantation or brachytherapy, has the advantage of delivering a high dose of radiation to tissues in the immediate area.

As practiced today, internal radiation therapy relies on ultrasound or CT to guide the placement of thin-walled needles through the skin of the perineum. Seeds made of radioactive palladium or iodine are delivered through the needles into the prostate according to a customized pattern—using computer programs—to conform to the shape and size of each man's prostate.

Radiation Therapy or Surgery?

Find out how radiation therapy compares with prostatectomy (surgical removal of the prostate) along the critical outcomes of survival, cancer recurrence, incontinence and erectile function.

PN 1002355 Rev A 04/2013

Important Safety Information

Serious complications may occur in any surgery, including da Vinci® Surgery, up to and including death. Individual surgical results may vary. Patients should talk to their doctor to decide if da Vinci Surgery is right for them. Patients and doctors should review all available information on non-surgical and surgical options in order to make an informed decision. Please also refer to  http://www.daVinciSurgery.com/Safety for Important Safety Information.

When Is Single-Site Technology Used and What Are the Risks?

da Vinci Surgery with Single-Site® Instruments is cleared for use in gallbladder removal, and for hysterectomy and ovary removal for benign conditions. Patients who are not candidates for non-robotic minimally invasive surgery are also not candidates for da Vinci Surgery, including da Vinci Surgery with Single-Site Instruments. There may be an increased risk of incision-site hernia with single-incision surgery, including Single-Site surgery with the da Vinci System.


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This website does not provide medical advice. If you think you have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately.

The materials on this website are for general educational information only. Information you read on this website cannot replace the relationship that you have with your healthcare professional. Intuitive Surgical does not practice medicine or provide medical services or advice and the information on this website should not be considered medical advice. You should always talk to your healthcare provider for diagnosis and treatment. Health information changes quickly. Therefore, it is always best to consult with your healthcare provider.

If you have questions about the da Vinci® Surgical System or about surgical procedures conducted with the da Vinci Surgical System, consult a surgeon that has experience with the da Vinci Surgical System. A list of surgeons that have experience with the da Vinci Surgical System can be found in the Surgeon Locator.

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