- Prostate cancer
- Management and treatment
- Radiation therapy
- External beam radiation therapy (EBRT)
External beam radiation therapy (EBRT)
In EBRT, a machine precisely directs radiation beams from outside the body to the prostate.
Learn more about:
How EBRT is given
Each treatment session takes about 15 minutes. You will lie on the treatment table under the radiation machine. The machine does not touch you but may rotate around you. You will not see or feel the radiation.
There are different types of EBRT. Your radiation oncologist will talk to you about the most suitable type for your situation. Usually, EBRT for prostate cancer is delivered every weekday for 4–9 weeks. Some newer forms of EBRT are delivered in 5–7 treatments over two weeks.
EBRT does not make you radioactive and there is no danger to the people around you. Most people feel well enough to continue working, driving, exercising or doing their normal activities throughout treatment.
Reducing the risk of bowel side effects
Radiation therapy can have side effects, including bowel changes. To move the bowel away from the prostate, the radiation oncologist may suggest a spacer. Before the treatment course begins, a temporary gel or balloon is injected into the space between the prostate and bowel. This procedure is usually done by a urologist as a day procedure under a light anaesthetic.
Using a spacer may help prevent bowel side effects in some people. However, the cost is not subsidised by Medicare. Ask your doctors what you will have to pay and the benefits for your situation.
The radiation therapists may advise you to drink fluids before each treatment session so you have a full bladder. This will expand your bladder and push the bowel higher up into the abdomen, away from the radiation. They may also advise you to empty your bowels before each treatment to help ensure the prostate is in the same position every time.
Podcast: Making Treatment Decisions
Download a PDF booklet on this topic.
A/Prof Ian Vela, Urologic Oncologist, Princess Alexandra Hospital, Queensland University of Technology, and Urocology, QLD; A/Prof Arun Azad, Medical Oncologist, Urological Cancers, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; A/Prof Nicholas Brook, Consultant Urological Surgeon, Royal Adelaide Hospital and A/Prof Surgery, The University of Adelaide, SA; Peter Greaves, Consumer; Graham Henry, Consumer; Clin Prof Nat Lenzo, Nuclear Physician and Specialist in Internal Medicine, Group Clinical Director, GenesisCare Theranostics, and Notre Dame University Australia, WA; Henry McGregor, Men’s Health Physiotherapist, Adelaide Men’s Health Physio, SA; Jessica Medd, Senior Clinical Psychologist, Department of Urology, Concord Repatriation General Hospital, NSW; Dr Tom Shakespeare, Director, Radiation Oncology, Coffs Harbour, Port Macquarie and Lismore Public Hospitals, NSW; A/Prof David Smith, Senior Research Fellow, Daffodil Centre, Cancer Council NSW; Allison Turner, Prostate Cancer Specialist Nurse (PCFA), Canberra Region Cancer Centre, Canberra Hospital, ACT; Maria Veale, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council QLD; Michael Walkden, Consumer; Prof Scott Williams, Radiation Oncology Lead, Urology Tumour Stream, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, and Professor of Oncology, Sir Peter MacCallum Department of Oncology, The University of Melbourne, VIC.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.
Coping with cancer?
Ask a health professional or someone who’s been there, or find a support group or forum
Looking for transport, accommodation or home help?
Practical advice and support during and after treatment