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9 November 2006
Radiation Therapy Scaring Off Prostate Cancer Patients
by George Atkinson

A study presented at the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology's Annual Meeting showed that men with prostate cancer were deeply concerned about the possible effects radiation therapy might have on them. The researchers behind the study said that negative perceptions about radiation therapy can strongly influence a prostate cancer patient's choice to avoid external beam radiation therapy, even though studies have proven the treatment to be as safe and effective as other treatments for the disease.

The main treatments for prostate cancer are external beam radiation therapy, radiation seed implants and surgery. External beam radiation uses a beam of X-rays directed through the skin to kill the cancer. The researchers said that many men with prostate cancer choose external beam radiation over other treatments because it is non-invasive and often helps men preserve their sexual function.

But the new study shows that some prostate cancer sufferers have deep fears about radiation treatment, with the greatest worries related to how the X-rays might affect them. Some patients believed that the radiation would harm surrounding unprotected organs. Additionally, the terminology used in radiation therapy, such as the term "hitting the target," was cited as evoking feelings more related to war, than to a cure.

"The study shows that patients base their treatment choice not only on technical information, but also on cultural and personal prejudices," said researcher Riccardo Valdagni. "It's important for patients to express their fears about radiation treatment to their doctors and for doctors to consider these worries and address any misconceptions about this therapy so that patients can make the best, most informed decision about their treatment."

Based on material from the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology

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