Brachytherapy for prostate cancer is a type of radiation therapy to kill the cancer cells.
There are different types of this therapy that work to deliver to radiation directly to the area where the tumor is present. While the therapy kills the cancer cells, it does limited damage to the healthy tissue that is nearby.
Why It is Done
This procedure may be done alone or with other treatments. In the early stages of prostate cancer, brachytherapy may be the one treatment necessary. For more advanced cancers, it may be combined with other treatments, such as beam radiation, chemotherapy or hormone therapy. Once the cancer spreads to the lymph nodes and beyond, this therapy is typically not recommended.
Preparing for Brachytherapy
The first step is meeting with a radiation oncologist. They will explain the procedure and help you to determine if it is right for you. The next step is to go for imaging studies. This will help the doctor to determine the proper placement of the brachytherapy. There are various scans that the doctor might recommend, such as ultrasound, magnetic resonance imaging and computerized tomography.
You will either have permanent or temporary brachytherapy. With the permanent type, the seed that are implanted remain in place permanently. With the temporary type, the seeds will be removed after a short period of time.
Either a needle or tubes are inserted into your rectum to place the seeds in the proper area near the prostate. The doctor usually administers general anesthesia for the procedure to help ensure comfort. During placement, a wand instrument may be used so that the doctor can visualize the area and ensure proper placement.
For permanent brachytherapy, you usually go home the same day. For the temporary type, you may need to spend the night in the hospital and will be released the next day.
It is not uncommon to experience some swelling and pain in the area following this procedure. Over-the-counter pain medication and ice packs are usually enough to help to alleviate your discomfort.
You are usually instructed to rest following the procedure. Your doctor will let you know when it is okay to start getting back to your normal schedule.
There are certain risks that may occur with this therapy that you need to know about. In many cases, you may be prescribed additional medications to help to reduce the severity of any side effects that you experience with brachytherapy. The risks of brachytherapy include:
- Trouble starting urination
- Burning sensation during urination
- Urge to urinate at night
- Urethral narrowing
- Rectal bleeding
- A frequent feeling to urinate
- Blood in the urine
- You cannot fully empty your bladder
- Erectile dysfunction
- Blood in your stool
It is important to understand the fundamentals of brachytherapy for prostate cancer before agreeing to it. This helps to ensure that you know what to expect during the process and during the recovery period.