Proton therapy’s advantage over standard radiation for prostate cancer

Oct 31, 2023
Proton therapy’s advantage over standard radiation for prostate cancer

One treatment option for prostate cancer is radiation therapy which has been around for decades. One of the first methods of radiation to treat prostate cancer was in 1913, when doctors implanted radium directly into the prostate. By 1962, megavoltage radiation was used to treat prostate cancer that had not spread beyond the prostate gland. It wasn’t until 1997 that radiation therapy combined with hormone therapy for men with larger or more aggressive prostate tumors became one of the standards for the treatment of this disease. 

Brief overview of prostate cancer and radiation

The second leading cause of cancer death and diagnosis in men is prostate cancer. This disease happens when prostate cells begin to grow and multiply out of control, causing damage to surrounding tissue and interrupting the normal functioning of the prostate gland. The good news for men and their families should know is that when detected early, prostate cancer has a five-year survival rate of almost 99%. 

Radiation therapy can have similar outcomes as surgery for early-stage prostate cancer. It can also be used for prostate cancer that is localized yet more advanced and has not spread beyond the prostate. While standard radiation therapy for prostate cancer has saved numerous men’s lives and may be the best option for some men, it does have drawbacks. These drawbacks include increased fatigue, soreness in the area of treatment, require frequent treatments, may cause bowel/bladder, urinary or erectile function issues. In addition, the possibility of surgery after radiation is challenging if not impossible. Standard radiation may also cause health issues later as it may damage normal or healthy tissues or organs near the tumor site. 

Understanding proton therapy and its benefits 

Thankfully, over the years, radiation therapy has evolved. Today, there is a type of radiation therapy called Proton therapy for prostate cancer. Proton therapy is an advanced type of radiation therapy that allows targeting of tumors with extreme precision while sparring nearby healthy tissue. Proton therapy uses a beam of protons that delivers radiation directly to the tumor. As a result, patients may experience fewer side effects and improve their quality of life during and after treatment. 

For men who have chosen proton therapy, with the guidance of their medical team, will experience several advantages of using this for treating prostate cancer. One benefit of obliterating the prostate tumors is that physicians delivering proton therapy can aim the proton beam to cause the most damage to those tumor cells. The advanced technology of proton radiation therapy is that the beam can conform to the shape and depth of a tumor as it spares nearby healthy tissues and organs.  

Besides the preciseness and delivery of the proton beams, other benefits of using proton radiation therapy include:

  • Minimal impact to the surrounding organs, such as the bladder and rectum, reducing the incidence of bladder or rectal cancers
  • The treatment is less invasive, painless, and has no downtime
  • The therapy can be done in a comfortable outpatient setting
  • Takes only 15 to 20 minutes, five days a week to administer and is delivered for up to eight weeks or longer
  • The risk of impotence after treatment is minimized
  • Patients can continue to work during the course of proton therapy treatment
  • Patients can exercise and be sexually active during the course of treatment 

Final thoughts

When it comes to treating prostate cancer, there is no one-size-fits-all mentality. Instead, every man with prostate cancer is unique with their special circumstances for why certain treatments are recommended over others. 

Proton therapy is not for every man diagnosed with prostate cancer. This decision is made jointly between a man and his doctor taking into consideration many factors and possible outcomes. But, it is one option that has increased the survivability rate of prostate cancer for many men to consider. 


Dr. David Samadi is the Director of Men’s Health and Urologic Oncology at St. Francis Hospital in Long Island. He’s a renowned and highly successful board certified Urologic Oncologist Expert and Robotic Surgeon in New York City, regarded as one of the leading prostate surgeons in the U.S., with a vast expertise in prostate cancer treatment and Robotic-Assisted Laparoscopic Prostatectomy.  Dr. Samadi is a medical contributor to NewsMax TV and is also the author of The Ultimate MANual, Dr. Samadi’s Guide to Men’s Health and Wellness, available online both on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Visit Dr. Samadi’s websites at robotic oncology and prostate cancer 911.