Shortened radiation therapy may help with low-risk prostate cancer

In the Journals

A new study found that patients with low-risk prostate cancer may be able to undergo a shortened course of radiation therapy that cuts treatment by weeks and offers similar quality-of-life results as longer treatments. The study's results were presented Sept. 26, 2016, at the American Society for Radiation Oncology's annual meeting.

Researchers analyzed quality of life for men with low-risk prostate cancer up to a year after the men underwent either conventional radiation therapy or hypofractionated (short-course) radiation therapy. Quality of life was measured in terms of the most common side effects of radiation therapy, such as bowel, urinary, and sexual function.

Conventional radiation therapy is typically given in 40 to 45 doses over about eight to nine weeks. In comparison, short-course radiation therapy is given in about 28 doses over five to six weeks, with larger doses per day.

Researchers studied 1,092 men with low-risk prostate cancer, defined as having a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) level below 10, a Gleason score (a classification of the grade of prostate cancer) of 6 or lower, and cancer limited to the prostate as determined by a digital rectal exam. The results showed that patients treated with short-course radiation therapy had the same urinary and sexual quality of life compared with those who had traditional radiation therapy.

The long-term outcomes for short-course radiation therapy are unknown, but if it works similarly to traditional radiation therapy to prevent prostate cancer growth, it may become a standard option for men with low-risk cancers, as the treatment is shorter and more convenient.