23 May 2024

Radiation therapy works by damaging the DNA in your cancer cells, the genetic material within cells needed to divide and grow. When cancer cell DNA is damaged beyond repair, the cancer cells stop dividing and eventually die. It can take several treatments before the DNA is damaged enough for cancer cells to die. For this reason, radiation therapy is often given as a course of treatment over several days or weeks.                                                                                        

External beam radiation therapy (or EBRT) uses a machine called a linear accelerator that directs high energy X-ray beams (radiation) directly at your cancer from outside of your body.

Radiation has changed in the past 20 years and continues to evolve with clinical trials demonstrating the safety and efficacy of more precise and shorter treatment courses.

Below are a number of different radiation techniques that can be used in the treatment of prostate cancers.

Volumetric modulated arc therapy (VMAT) is a type of radiation therapy that maximises radiation to the tumour, whilst sparing healthy tissue.

VMAT works by rotating the linear accelerator around you during treatment, continuously reshaping and changing the intensity of the radiation beam as it moves.

VMAT is useful in reducing damage to critical organs, reducing the risk of side effects.

Image Guided Radiation Therapy (IGRT) helps target cancers in organs that may move during or between treatments, such as the prostate. X-rays and scans are taken before, and during your treatment, so that tiny adjustments can be made to precisely target the treatment area. Shaping the radiation beams in this way can avoid damage to surrounding healthy tissue.


Magnetic Resonance Image Guided Radiation Therapy (MRIgRT) provides real – time visualisation to support treatment. It combines high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques with extremely precise radiation therapy.

Hypofractionated radiation therapy for prostate cancer is generally delivered in 20 fractions over 4-5 weeks compared to conventional delivery of 37-45 fractions over 8-9 weeks.

Stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT), or Stereotactic Ablative Body Radiation (SABR), is a newer technique which uses sophisticated image guidance that pinpoints the exact three-dimensional location of a tumour so the radiation can be delivered precisely to cancer cells.

These very short courses of treatment (5 or less) using intense radiation doses, are called ultra hypo-fractionated radiation therapy. However, this technique isn’t suitable for all men, and the long-term results and effectiveness from SABR/SBRT are still being studied. Therefore, it’s not available in all radiation therapy centres around Australia. It may be available through a clinical trial or a centre specialising in the technique. You should discuss your own situation with your radiation oncologist.

With these options in mind, please remember that we are here to help. For further information about radiation therapy or to talk with a nurse about prostate cancer information and support, the PCFA Specialist Telenursing Service and Counselling Service can be contacted on 1800 22 00 99.