At HIFU Prostate Services we are committed to providing the latest relevant information about prostate cancer including Brachytherapy.
Brachytherapy, also known as interstitial radiation therapy, is a category of radiation therapy which is used to treat various forms of cancer. It is commonly referred to as “seed implants.” It is actually two specific therapies: temporary brachytherapy and permanent brachytherapy. The dosage and type are determined by the patient’s physician based on the patient’s aggressiveness of the cancer. Once a treatment plan is decided on, a radiation oncologist works to define the dosage and its schedule.
In both temporary and permanent brachytherapy, doctors place radioactive material throughout the patient’s prostate. Before any radiation can be positioned, physicians utilize computer programs and other technologies like MRIs, CT scans, and X-rays to accurately plan radiation placement relative to the cancerous tumor. For prostate cancer, brachytherapy is an advantageous treatment option as the specific placement of the radiation can help physicians avoid some early side effects to the adjacent bladder and rectum, as well as, sexual function and urine control. There is a low chance of late, delayed bleeding, urinary tract scarring, or rare delayed secondary cancers.
Temporary brachytherapy is when the radioactive materials used for radiation are contained in a catheter or tube which is then placed in the prostate. Once the materials have been in for the allotted time as determined by a radiation oncologist, they are then removed from the body. These temporary treatments can be either high- or low-dose rates depending on the cancer specifics. With the power to control the duration and dosage regions by computer, temporary brachytherapy gives physicians the capability to vary their treatment as needed for an individual prostate cancer.
High-dose rate brachytherapy (HDR) is typically an outpatient process under anesthesia. Patients are treated with radioactive material that is only left in their bodies for a few minutes up to 20 minutes. These appointments can be from every few weeks to as much as two times a day. Once the procedure is complete, the radioactive material is removed from the body. HDR may be combined with external radiation in more aggressive cancers.
Another common option for patients with prostate cancer is permanent brachytherapy or “seed implants.” For permanent brachytherapy, the radioactive materials are contained in small pellets, which are then positioned in the prostate and cancer. Unlike the temporary radiation, these pellets are permanently placed in the patient. These pellets are not removed because they are safe to remain in the body without any problems. This is because they are designed to have their radioactivity expire after months, leaving harmless metallic pellets inside the prostate. The pellets rarely migrate to other parts of the body; however, this should cause no noticeable problems.
Other treatments for prostate cancer include various forms of external beam radiation therapy. These include IMRT, Cyberknife, and proton therapy. The difference between external beam radiation therapy and brachytherapy lies in the placement of the radiation. For brachytherapy, the radiation is placed inside the body as close to the tumor as possible. For all types of external beam radiation therapy, the radiation is emitted from a machine outside the body.
Although every case of prostate cancer and patient is unique, brachytherapy is a successful treatment option for many. Its ability to minimize immediate sexual and urinary effects, while also using fairly non-invasive procedures makes it a reasonable treatment option for many prostate cancer patients.
If you have any further questions regarding prostate cancer or treatment options, please contact us today.
Reviewed by Dr. Samuel Peretsman