Brachytherapy Treatment for Prostate Cancer

Brachytherapy Treatment

Brachytherapy treatment directly delivers radiotherapy into the cancerous prostate gland, using radioactive seeds; these seeds can continuously destroy cancer cells for up to a year, by releasing low levels of radiation. Healthy organs remain unaffected, as each seed’s radiation levels are low, localised and solely affect small surrounding areas.

Brachytherapy Treatment
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Candidates for Brachytherapy

Brachytherapy is appropriate for patients with early T1 and T2 stage prostate cancer, and a Gleason score lower than 6. Patients with progressive T3 cancer may also benefit , as it’s known to produce better results wherever external beam radiotherapy is used. Brachytherapy is unsuitable treatment for severe urinary symptoms.

The procedure

Anaesthetised patients are injected (into the perineum) with needles containing radioactive seeds; so as to position the seeds precisely within the prostate gland and to avoid unnecessary tissue damage, these needles are ultrasound-guided. Patients can quickly resume everyday activities, but could suffer mild discomfort and must also take a course of antibiotics afterwards.

Prostate cancer patients receiving Brachytherapy Treatment usually return home the same day. The patient’s radiation dosage (via the injected radioactive seeds) will be assessed for accuracy using a CT scan, around a month later. The radioactive seeds will stay in the prostate gland for the year-long duration of treatment.

Advantages and disadvantages of Brachytherapy Treatment¹

When considering Brachytherapy, prostate cancer patients should also consider their individual circumstances carefully. Healthcare professionals such as doctors or radiographers should always be consulted for full insight into the advantages and disadvantages. Generally, this is a less time-sensitive decision that allows for contemplation.

The advantages include a short, one or two day stay in hospital, a short two day recovery (before everyday activities can be resumed), lower risk of side-effects, high precision and lower risk of healthy tissue damage) and the possibility that treatment can be resumed, should a patient’s cancer return.

The disadvantages of Brachytherapy include the requirement to keep children and expectant mothers distanced (for eight weeks following the procedure); as commonplace with the general or spinal anaesthetic used, side effects should also be expected (Brachytherapy can induce erectile or urinary issues). Test results and verification can also take time.

Is the treatment safe?

When compared with the side effects of surgical prostate procedures, the precision of Brachytherapy poses less risk of impotency or incontinence, but patients should still expect short-lived side effects such as the frequent need to urinate and/or the restricted flow of urine. Recovery is often quick, but results are only assessed using a PSA test one year later.

¹Macmillan, Advantage and disadvantages of Brachytherapy Treatment, 30th June 2018

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