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What is Brachytherapy?
Brachytherapy (also known as Radioactive seeds) is a kind of radiation therapy used in cancer treatment. In radiation therapy, ionizing radiation is used to eliminate cancer cells and reduce tumors. During brachytherapy, radioactive material is placed directly on the tumor.
Brachytherapy that involves using radioactive seeds is known as Permanent Brachytherapy. The radioactive seeds are placed in or near the tumor and are left there permanently. After many months, the radioactivity level of the implants reduces to nil. The seeds are inactive and remain in the patient’s body without any lasting effect.
Brachytherapy is used to treat cancers of the prostate, cervix, head and neck, skin, breast, gallbladder, uterus, vagina, lung, rectum, and eye.
How is Permanent Brachytherapy performed?
How to prepare for Permanent Brachytherapy?
- A needle containing radioactive seeds is inserted into the tumor.
- The needle is removed and the radioactive seeds are placed inside the patient’s body.
- The physician may use X-rays and CT scans to position the seeds in the correct place.
- Other imaging tests may also be performed after the seeds have been implanted to verify the placement of the radioactive seeds.
The patient may need to do some of the following preparations:
- Blood tests
- Pre-treatment ultrasound, CT scan or MRI
- Bowel preparation
- Chest X-rays
Side effects of brachytherapy differ according to the location of the tumor.
Acute side effects that last for a few days consist of the following:
- Localized bruising
- Discomfort or discharge at the implant site
Acute side effects of brachytherapy related to cervical or prostate cancer are:
- Urinary incontinence
- Urinary retention
- Painful urination
- Minor rectal bleeding
- Rare chance of seeds migrating outside the treatment site and into the bladder and passed in the urine
Acute side effects of brachytherapy related to skin cancer are:
- Shedding of the skin’s outer layer
Days admitted : A few days of hospital stay may be required after a permanent brachytherapy, depending on the dose and location of the implant.
As the radiation becomes less day by day, the patient will be discharged from the hospital.
Anesthesia : General anesthesia may be administered while the implants are inserted into the patient’s body.
Recovery : Most patients are able to return to regular activities within a few weeks after brachytherapy.
Risks : Long-term risks of brachytherapy may result from damage of tissues and organs.
- Urinary and digestive problems in cases of cervical and prostate cancer
- Erectile dysfunction in cases of prostate cancer
- Scar tissue and fat necrosis in cases of breast cancer
After care : - The patient should follow the aftercare instructions very carefully.
- The level of radiation is very low and affects only tissues that are around a few millimeters of the tumor. As a precautionary measure, patients are advised not to hold infants and small children. They should also avoid being too close to women who are pregnant.
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