What you can expect

During prostate brachytherapy

What you can expect during prostate brachytherapy depends on the type of brachytherapy treatment you'll receive.

  • Permanent prostate brachytherapy. Prostate brachytherapy that stays in your body permanently is called low-dose-rate brachytherapy or seed implants.

    During this procedure, you may be placed under anesthesia so that you aren't aware during the procedure and won't feel pain.

    A wand-like instrument is inserted in your rectum. This instrument creates ultrasound pictures of your prostate. The pictures help guide a long needle that's used to place many seed-like radioactive implants in your prostate. The needle is inserted through the skin between your scrotum and your anus (perineum) and into your prostate. The seeds, about the size of grains of rice, will give off radiation for a few months and will remain in your body permanently.

    Once the seeds are placed in your body, you'll spend some time in a recovery area, and then you can go home. The low levels of radiation in the seeds generally aren't harmful to others, but as a precaution, you may be asked to avoid close contact with children and pregnant women for a short time. Your doctor may advise you to wear a condom during sex.

  • Temporary prostate brachytherapy. Prostate brachytherapy using radiation that stays in your body for several minutes at a time is called high-dose-rate (HDR) brachytherapy.

    During HDR brachytherapy, you'll be under anesthesia so that you aren't aware and won't feel pain.

    Thin tubes are inserted through the perineum and into your prostate at precise locations. The tubes are connected to a machine that feeds wires containing radiation into the prostate. The radioactive wires are left in place for a set amount of time, typically several minutes. Then the radioactive wires are removed. The tubes are left in place, and you may spend the night in the hospital and repeat the procedure the next day. You may undergo a few treatments. Once your treatments are complete, the tubes are removed.

After the procedure

After prostate brachytherapy, you can expect some pain and swelling in the perineum where the radiation needles were inserted. You may find relief by placing an ice pack over the area or taking acetaminophen (Tylenol, others). Tell your doctor if these measures aren't controlling your pain.

You can resume normal activities when you feel up to it. Avoid strenuous activity, such as running, or activities that may irritate the perineum, such as riding a bike, until the area where the radiation was inserted is no longer tender.

Nov. 23, 2016
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