What is External Beam Radiation Therapy?

Female doctor talking to male patient.
Print icon

It sounds like something dangerous or straight out of a science fiction movie, but external beam radiation therapy is one of the best and most advanced ways to treat prostate cancer.

Dr. Nicole Anderson, a radiation oncologist with Backus Hospital, says external beam radiation is recommended for many patients with prostate cancer, one of the most treatable forms of cancer. Typically, 44 15-minute radiation treatments are given five days a week.

“Treatments are highly localized to the area containing the cancer and patients feel absolutely nothing during each individual treatment session,” Dr. Anderson says.

First, patients undergo a simulation visit so treatments target the exact location of the cancer. These visits include:

  • Having the patient lie on the CT scanner in the exact treatment position.
  • Creating any needed immobilization devices so the patient stays comfortable and still.
  • Placing reference marks or “tattoos” on the patient.
  • Taking “mapping” scans.

“We radiation oncologists work very closely with the medical physicist and dosimetrist to create an optimal plan for each patient to ensure the treatment is delivered in the safest and most effective way possible,” Dr. Anderson says.

Some patients notice mild side effects from radiation treatments, including:

  • Increased need to urinate or sense of urgency.
  • Change in bowel habits.
  • Mild fatigue.

The newest form of RT – Stereotactic Body RT, or SBRT – is currently being tested in an ongoing Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center research trial at Hartford Hospital and The Hospital of Central Connecticut. Dr. Anderson says SBRT shortens the number of sessions needed from 44 to just five for select patients.

“The results of this new treatment are promising but it still remains under investigation,” she says.

For more information about treatment options available through Hartford HealthCare, click here.


What's New

Art Therapy

ART for Healing: Coping With Cancer Through Artistic Expression

When coping with a chronic illness such as cancer, patients and their caregivers can experience a range of complex emotions. Expressive arts and other forms of integrative medicine can be an important resource for people to learn coping strategies, express their feelings and help process experiences during early diagnosis, treatment and...

Truncal Lymphedema

When Breast Cancer Treatments Cause Truncal Lymphedema

Lymphedema, a collection of fluid that can cause swelling, is possible anywhere in the body but seems to be identified and addressed more commonly when it happens in an arm or leg. When persistent swelling occurs in the underarm, breast, or chest, patients will often decide to wait and see...

Breast Cancer Surgery

New: Radiofrequency Seeds Aid Breast Surgery, Improve Cosmetic Results

Not all breast disease can be felt, so surgeons have developed ways to mark the lump or lesion for more effective removal. At Hartford HealthCare, that process just got a lot more high-tech and efficient. This month, the Hartford HealthCare Cancer Institute Breast Program becomes the first in the state...

PSA test

How to Stop Prostate Cancer? It Starts With a PSA Test

Dr. Ryan Dorin, a urologist at the Hartford HealthCare Tallwood Urology & Kidney Institute, says the PSA test remains the best way to detect prostate cancer at its earliest stages and give the patient the best chance at successful treatment. Here’s a quick Q&A: Q: There has been a fair...


A Healthier You: Cancer Institute Summer Classes, Events

2019 Hartford HealthCare Cancer Institute Summer Calendar Bereavement Support Group June 26, July 10 & 24, Aug. 14 & 28 from 2-3:30 pm Hartford HealthCare Cancer Institute at Backus Hospital, 326 Washington St., Norwich, Conference Room 2 To register, call 1.855.HHC.HERE (1.855.442.4373) Brain Tumor Support: Upcoming Events and Community Resources June 6, July 11, Aug....

Rethinking Immunity to Help Beat Cancer

By Dr. Peter Yu Physician-in-Chief, Hartford HealthCare Cancer Institute It is frightening to receive a cancer diagnosis. But there is more hope than ever before. Through clinical trials and research, we are developing new treatments that help people live longer and better lives – and actually cure an increasing number of...