What is Prostate Brachytherapy?

Prostate brachytherapy is a type of internal radiation therapy used to treat prostate cancer. Brachytherapy and other internal radiation therapies place radioactive material inside of the body so that radiation can be released directly in the area of the cancer or tumor. Prostate brachytherapy uses radioactive seeds or pellets implanted into the prostate gland using thin tubes (catheters) or needles. The seed implants can be left in temporarily (temporary brachytherapy), meaning all radioactive material is removed following a treatment session, or they may be left in permanently (permanent brachytherapy). Permanent brachytherapy seeds will give off radiation slowly over the course of several weeks or months. Because radioactivity lessens over time, eventually, the amount of radiation released will become negligible, and the seeds will remain in your prostate gland without causing any side effects.

A group of doctors, including a radiation oncologist, will determine the details of your treatment plan, such as length of treatment and whether you will receive low dose rate or high dose rate brachytherapy. Low dose rate brachytherapy may be temporary or permanent. If temporary, you will remain in the hospital for several days while the radiation is delivered to your prostate gland through catheters or needles. In contrast, high dose rate brachytherapy delivers a high amount of radiation over a period of about thirty minutes, after which the radioactive materials are removed from your prostate. High dose rate brachytherapy is always temporary. You may receive a single treatment session, or your treatment may continue in multiple sessions. Sessions can occur either in a single day or across several days, during which you will remain in the hospital.

Typically, you can return home within hours following treatment, although an overnight hospital stay may be required. Side effects from prostate brachytherapy are temporary and may include erectile dysfunction, pelvic pain, fatigue, and urinary incontinence. If you feel pain or swelling where the needles or catheters were inserted, it may help to avoid activities such as bike riding. Normal activity can be resumed within days of your procedure.

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