Radiation therapy after radical prostatectomy: A review of the issues and options

Richard K Valicenti, Leonard G. Gomella, Carlos A. Perez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


The role of postoperative radiation therapy after radical prostatectomy is controversial. Radiation can be delivered as an adjuvant therapy in the immediate postoperative period for high-risk patients or as salvage therapy in the setting of a rising prostate-specific antigen. There are important issues that must be addressed when considering radiation therapy after prior prostatectomy. One issue is the determination of whether a patient has local disease amenable to salvage pelvic radiation or whether the patient has occult metastatic disease. In addition, the radiation oncologist must decide if an acceptable dose of radiation therapy can be administered safely to the prostate bed. There are no published randomized clinical trials on the topic of postprostatectomy radiation therapy, although several have completed accrual or are in progress. Based on the available literature, postoperative radiation is a safe option in the patient at high risk for local recurrence based on adverse pathology or clinical features (eg, extensive extracapsular disease, positive margins, high volume Gleason score >7, and so on). Administration of an adequate dose of prostate bed radiation (ie, >64 Gy) in men with these adverse prognostic features appears to effectively reduce prostate-specific antigen (PSA) recurrence rates. The protracted natural history of prostate cancer requires longer follow-up to determine if survival will be ultimately affected by adjuvant or salvage radiation therapy. Some urologists have advised a "wait and watch policy" for high-risk postprostatectomy patients. Administration of radiation therapy is done only if and when the PSA rises. However, data suggest this approach may have limited durability in high-risk prostate cancer and could reduce the likelihood of prolonged progression-free survival. This review summarizes published retrospective and prospective data to guide decision making in selecting appropriate candidates for postprostatectomy radiation therapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)130-140
Number of pages11
JournalSeminars in Radiation Oncology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2003
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
  • Radiation


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