About the treatment:
- Brachytherapy uses radiation to destroy cancer cells and shrink tumors.
- The radiation source, which looks like seeds, ribbons, or wires, is put into your body.
Before treatment starts:
You will meet with your doctor to:
- Talk about your health and medical history.
- Get a checkup (physical exam). You will also have tests to take pictures of the cancer.
- Learn how brachytherapy can help you.
- Learn about any side effects you may have. These differ depending on where the radiation is placed.
- Ask and get answers to all your questions before starting treatment.
- Your doctor will place a small holder, such as a thin tube called a catheter, into your body. It is placed in or near the cancer cells. Sometimes an applicator or a balloon attached to a thin tube is used.
- Then the seeds, ribbons, or wires are put inside the small holder so that the radiation can reach and destroy cancer cells.
- Depending on the type of implant you receive, the radiation source may stay in place for minutes, hours, or days. Or if you receive a permanent implant, it will not be taken out.
Types of brachytherapy:
Low-dose rate (LDR) implants
- These implants stay in for hours or days. Often they stay in for 1 to 7 days and then are taken out.
- You are likely to stay in a special room in the hospital.
- You may need to limit time with visitors in the hospital, while the implant is in place.
- Once the implant is removed, you are not radioactive and can be around people.
High-dose rate (HDR) implants
- These implants stay in place for a few minutes at a time and are then taken out. Your entire visit will be longer, though, since it also takes time to prepare for the treatment.
- The holder or catheter may stay in place or it may be put in place before each treatment.
- You are likely to make daily trips to the hospital for your treatment. Or you may stay in the hospital. This
depends on the type of cancer you have.
- You can be around people after the implant is removed. You are not radioactive.
- These implants stay in your body and are not removed.
- Over time the radiation gets weaker, but the implants stay in place.
- Your doctor or nurse will talk with you about what safety measures to take.
Questions to ask your doctor or nurse:
1. How can brachytherapy help me?
2. What type of brachytherapy do you recommend?
3. What side effects should I expect? How will these side effects be lowered or managed?
4. Is infertility a possibility for me? Would you give me the name of a fertility expert to meet with?
5. How often, and for how long, will I receive treatment?
6. What changes might I have after treatment? How long will these changes last?