Brachytherapy is a minimally invasive treatment where the cancer is treated from the inside by carefully placing radioactive material inside or near your tumor. The radioactive materials are in the form of small “seeds” about the size of a grain of rice that will emit radiation for a few months, constantly killing cancer cells. The brachytherapy seeds are designed to only allow the radiation to travel a few millimeters to kill the cancer cells, thereby reducing the effect on normal cells.
This treatment may be done alone, or in addition to external beam radiotherapy. Brachytherapy provides an advantage over traditional radiotherapy in that a higher dose of radiation can be used on the tumor. Brachytherapy can be used to treat many different kinds of cancer. Here at Staten Island Radiation and Oncology, we use brachytherapy in the form of radioactive iodine (I-215) or palladium (Pd-103) to treat prostate cancer. With brachytherapy, we can also reduce the need to remove the prostate, while lowering the risk of long term side effects.
Before your brachytherapy, you may need to undergo some testing. You may be expected to have an EKG, certain blood tests, or a chest X-Ray. These results are very important to determine your health and the type of mild anesthesia that will be used for the procedure. In the days before the procedure, you will be given very specific instructions on what to eat and the use of enemas. It is important that these instructions be carefully followed, so that the doctor can properly visualize your prostate during the procedure.
Brachytherapy is usually an outpatient procedure, and generally takes less than an hour. Patients receive general anesthesia. Either prior to or during your procedure, the doctor will take several computer guided images of your prostate, so that he can determine the number and placement of the brachytherapy seeds that are then placed in the prostate using a very thin needle. At the end of the procedure, a catheter will be placed in the bladder to help you to pass urine more comfortably during recovery.
After the procedure, an ice bag will be placed on the area to help reduce swelling and make you more comfortable. The urinary catheter is removed and patients can usually be taken home in a few hours to resume a normal schedule and diet. Patients must be accompanied by someone who can drive them home after the procedure.