Systemic (or whole body) radiation is an internal therapy in which radiation is administered through radioactive drugs called radiopharmaceuticals. These drugs can be given as a liquid drink, in capsules, or by injecting it into a vein, which is known as an intravenous injection (IV). Once administered, the radiation travels in the blood throughout the body to the source of the prostate cancer and works to eradicate cancerous cells.
Before Systemic Radiation Therapy
Before systemic radiation therapy can be administered, you will meet with your radiation oncologist to determine if this a viable prostate cancer treatment option for you. He or she may conduct a series of medical tests, including CT scans, MRI scans, PET scans, and a thorough physical examination. Your radiation oncologist will review the information obtained from this testing in order to develop an individualized treatment plan.
During Systemic Radiation Therapy
Systemic radiation therapy is usually done in a shielded room in a hospital or specialty healthcare facility. Do not be surprised if the health professionals administering the drugs are wearing special gear. This gear protects them from unnecessary radiation exposure. The therapy itself isn’t painful, and you can’t feel the radiation traveling throughout your body. If radiation is given by IV, a needle will be used and minor discomfort may be felt when the needle pierces the skin.
After Systemic Radiation Therapy
After systemic radiation, you may be required to stay in the hospital or care facility for one to two days until the radiation in your body has reached a safe level. Once you return home, some precautions may be needed for the first few days after treatment. Radiation can leave your body through saliva, sweat, blood, and urine, so you may be told to wash your hands well, use separate utensils and towels, avoid sexual contact, and limit your contact with infants, children, and women who are pregnant. Drinking water will help flush the radiation out of your body. You will meet with your radiation oncologist following therapy to discuss your progress.