My prostate cancer is being treated with radioactive seeds (brachytherapy). What precautions should I take during and after prostate cancer brachytherapy?
Answers from Erik P. Castle, M.D.
You may need to take some precautions, but it depends on the type of prostate cancer brachytherapy you receive.
Prostate cancer brachytherapy is designed to treat prostate cancer by delivering radiation treatment to only the prostate. This is done by implanting radioactive "seeds" containing your treatment inside your prostate gland.
Prostate cancer brachytherapy can be done with different types of radioactive seeds. The amount of radiation released by the seeds and the duration of treatment depend on the type of seeds used.
The lifetime radiation exposure to family members of men receiving prostate cancer brachytherapy is very low and doesn't exceed the annual limit set by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Although the seeds remain in the prostate for the rest of your life, the amount of radiation released by them decreases with time and eventually becomes negligible.
Your radiation oncologist can provide detailed information about the specific treatment used. Recommendations for the first two months after seed implantation may include:
- Avoiding sexual intercourse for the first two weeks
- After the first two weeks, using a condom during sexual intercourse in case a seed is passed during ejaculation
- Limiting close contact with children and pregnant women
- Not allowing children to sit on your lap for extended periods of time
If you travel to foreign countries, you may encounter radiation detectors at some border security checkpoints. Consider carrying a card from your radiation oncologist indicating that you have had a prostate seed implant.
June 09, 2014
See more Expert Answers
- What is brachytherapy? American Brachytherapy Society. http://www.americanbrachytherapy.org/aboutbrachytherapy/whatis.cfm. Accessed March 14, 2014.
- Roach M, et al. Brachytherapy for localized prostate cancer. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed March 14, 2014.
- NRC regulatory guides — Occupational health (Division 8). United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission. http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/reg-guides/occupational-health/rg/. Accessed March 14, 2014.
- Kono Y, et al. Radiation exposure to general public after permanent brachytherapy for prostate cancer. Radiation Protection Dosimetry. 2011;146:229.
- Radiation therapy and you: Support for people with cancer — Internal radiation therapy. National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/coping/radiation-therapy-and-you/page4. Accessed March 14, 2014.
- Common questions and answers. American Brachytherapy Society. http://www.americanbrachytherapy.org/aboutbrachytherapy/qanda.cfm. Accessed March 14, 2014.