Brachytherapy

Baptist Cancer Center offers prostate brachytherapy for the treatment of prostate cancer in adult men. Brachytherapy can be used to treat prostate cancer when the cancer is confined to the prostate gland. The procedure involves non-surgically implanting tiny radioactive seeds or pellets about the size of a grain of rice directly into the middle of the cancer.

Brachytherapy has a clear advantage as a treatment for prostate cancer, as it eliminates many of the risks associated with traditional surgical treatment. Advantages of using prostate brachytherapy include:

  • Eliminating risk of diseases caused by surgical incision into the abdominal cavity
  • Avoiding an overnight hospital stay, as prostate brachytherapy is typically an outpatient procedure
  • Recovering and returning to normal activity more quickly
  • Allowing for precise placement of the seeds, resulting in a more uniform seed distribution throughout the prostate
  • Relatively low long-term morbidity
  • Providing a more comfortable experience for older patients
  • Preserving sexual potency
  • Experiencing fewer side effects

The brachytherapy team at Baptist Cancer Center is comprised of urologists, radiation oncologists, medical physicists, medical dosimetrists and nursing staff. This team works with each patient from diagnosis through treatment and recovery.

Types of Prostate Brachytherapy

Low-Dose Prostate Brachytherapy

Low-dose prostate brachytherapy is the most common type of prostate brachytherapy treatment. Approximately 40-100 seeds of radioactive material are placed in the prostate gland near the cancer cells.

The radiation in the seeds can only travel a short distance, so a large amount of radiation is given, but only to a very small area. This allows the healthy tissue surrounding the cancerous cells to remain undamaged.

The seeds typically remain in the body permanently, but only remain radioactive for a few months.

High Dose Prostate Brachytherapy

High-dose prostate brachytherapy uses much higher doses of radiation for a shorter period of time. The radioactive material is inserted through small catheters placed near the cancer site and is removed after a few minutes. This process is typically done up to three times over the course of two or more days.

The higher dose of radiation is strong enough to kill all cancer cells, but the method of delivery allows the surrounding area to be spared from radiation exposure.

Side Effects of Prostate Brachytherapy

Patients who receive low-dose prostate brachytherapy will likely be advised to avoid pregnant women and children for the first few weeks following treatment, as the implanted seeds will continue to give off radiation.

Although it happens rarely, the seeds implanted in low-dose brachytherapy also have the potential to migrate through the body.

Other side effects are similar to those that may occur after receiving traditional radiation and may include urinary problems, bowel problems and skin irritation.