Prostate Cancer

Is IMRT Better than Standard Radiation for Prostate Cancer Treatment?

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If treatment for prostate cancer is in your future, you might consider the following study results concerning radiation: IMRT (intensity-modulated radiation therapy) was superior to standard radiation when it came to disease control and the possibility of suffering with gastrointestinal problems and hip fractures. However, you are at greater risk of experiencing erectile dysfunction if you choose IMRT over standard radiation.

IMRT is a type of external beam radiation therapy (EBRT) in which numerous small beams are focused on a tumor from many angles. The intensity of the beams are changed and controlled throughout each treatment session and involves the use of special computers and software, diagnostic imaging, and devices that position patients in precise ways.

In addition to the other benefits of IMRT over conventional radiation therapy for prostate cancer, the investigators in this study found that men who underwent IMRT were less likely to require additional cancer treatment.

When IMRT was compared with proton therapy, men who had the latter therapy had a higher risk of gastrointestinal problems.

Use of IMRT and proton therapy has increased dramatically over the past decade, and even though these treatment approaches cost more than conventional radiation, evidence that they are effective has been lacking. This new study indicates IMRT is associated with fewer side effects —with the exception of erectile dysfunction—and that proton therapy has a greater risk of gastrointestinal problems.

Read more in our Prostate Cancer Health Center.


Sheets NC et al. Intensity-modulated radiation therapy, proton therapy, or conformal radiation therapy and morbidity and disease control in localized prostate cancer. Journal of the American Medical Association 2012; 307(15): 1611-20

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