Treating Prostate Cancer
The UMCG Radiotherapy departments treats around 275 prostate cancer patients every year.
This treatment uses state-of-the-art photon radiotherapy technology (VMAT).
As of the end of 2017, the UMCG will also be able to treat tumours using protons. In principle, this type of proton therapy can also be applied to prostate cancer.
Proton Therapy for Prostate Cancer
Treating prostate cancers involves directing a high dose of radiation at the prostate, while limiting the dose as much as possible to the surrounding healthy organs, such as the rectum.
This high dose of radiation directed at the prostate is required to patients of the cancer. The chances of damaging healthy organs, resulting in permanent side-effects, are increased for high doses of radiation.
The most important side-effects, such as faecal urgency or blood in stool, are caused by damage to the rectum.
Modern photon radiation treatments have already shown to been designed to substantially restrict high doses of radiation to healthy organs., thereby preventing delayed side-effects. For some patients, proton therapy may allow for an additional reduction in the probability of delayed side-effects. The UMCG estimates that 10 out of every 100 prostate cancer patients (i.e., 10%) will be eligible for proton therapy.
The following pictures show examples of a photon and a proton radiation treatment plan.
The image on the left shows a photon radiation treatment plan. In this treatment plan, the tissue located in the blue area will also receive radiation. In order to properly treat the prostate (the ‘treatment area’), the dose to the rectum is still relatively high.
The image on the right shows a proton radiation treatment plan. In this treatment plan, the blue area is much smaller, leading to (in some patients) a substantial decrease in the dose of radiation to the rectum. This has the potential to limit the probability of side-effects.
Eligibility for Proton Therapy
Not all patients treated for prostate cancer require proton therapy. The use of proton radiotherapy may be considered for patients who would be at an increased risk of suffering side effects to healthy organs. To determine whether you might benefit from proton therapy, two radiation plans will be drafted prior to your treatment: one using photons, and another using protons. Both treatment plans are reviewed for their probability of side effects. The most suitable type of radiation treatment is then determined based on these reviews.
Prostate cancer patients are currently not eligible for proton therapy. Prostate cancer patients are not referred to hospitals abroad.
Expected Availability in Groningen
The UMCG expects to be able to treat prostate cancer patients using proton radiotherapy per the end of 2017, specifically at the UMC Groningen Proton Therapy Centre, part of the UMCG Radiotherapy department. Proton treatments will not be available at our remote facility in Emmen.
The following physicians at our department specialise in the treatment of prostate cancer patients.