What Are The Side Effects Of Brachytherapy For Prostate Cancer? Here Is What To Know

Let’s find out ‘What Are The Side Effects Of Brachytherapy For Prostate Cancer?’ Radiation therapy called prostate brachytherapy, pronounced brak-e-THER-uh-pee, is used to treat prostate cancer.

Placing radioactive sources into the prostate gland, where the radiation can kill cancer cells while inflicting less harm to healthy tissue around, is known as prostate brachytherapy.


What Are The Side Effects Of Brachytherapy For Prostate Cancer? Here Is What To Know
What Are The Side Effects Of Brachytherapy For Prostate Cancer? Here Is What To Know

Types Of Prostate Brachytherapy

Procedures for prostate brachytherapy vary depending on the type:

  • High Dose Rate (HDR) Brachytherapy. A brief form of prostate brachytherapy known as HDR involves inserting radioactive sources into the prostate gland and rapidly administering a high dose of radiation before removing the sources. A typical course of treatment might include multiple sessions.
  • Low Dose Rate (LDR) Brachytherapy. LDR prostate brachytherapy involves implanting radioactive seeds permanently within the prostate gland, where they gradually emit radiation over several months.

Whether you have HDR or LDR treatment will affect what you go through during brachytherapy.

Why It’s Done

What Are The Side Effects Of Brachytherapy For Prostate Cancer? Here Is What To Know
What Are The Side Effects Of Brachytherapy For Prostate Cancer? Here Is What To Know

Prostate cancer is treated with prostate brachytherapy. The method inserts radioactive sources into the prostate, directing radiation doses toward the tumour while sparing neighboring healthy tissue.

Brachytherapy may be the only therapy utilized if you have early-stage prostate cancer that isn’t expected to spread outside of the prostate.

Brachytherapy may be used with other therapies such external beam radiation therapy (EBRT) or hormone therapy for bigger prostate tumors or those with a higher risk of spreading outside the prostate.

Advanced prostate cancer that has migrated to the lymph nodes or to distant parts of the body is typically not treated with prostate brachytherapy.

Details About The Risks

Common Side Effects

Side effects of prostate brachytherapy include:

  • Difficulty starting urination
  • Frequently feeling an urgent need to urinate
  • Pain or discomfort when urinating
  • Needing to urinate at night
  • Blood in the urine
  • Not being able to empty your bladder completely
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Bleeding from the rectum
  • Blood in stool
  • Urgent bowel movements
  • More-frequent bowel movements

Medication is a common tool used by doctors to lessen treatment side effects. Over time, many prostate brachytherapy side effects become less noticeable.

Uncommon Complications

After prostate brachytherapy, some severe complications are possible, but they are uncommon. They consist of:

  • Narrowing of the tube that carries urine from your bladder to the outside of your body (urethra)
  • Abnormal opening (fistula) in the wall of the rectum
  • Cancer in the bladder or rectum caused by radiation

How you prepare

Getting ready for prostate brachytherapy entails:

  • Meet With A Doctor Who Treats Cancer With Radiation (radiation oncologist). The radiation oncologist will outline the available treatments along with any potential drawbacks and advantages. You and your partner can decide if prostate brachytherapy is the best course of action for you.
  • Have Tests To Prepare For Anesthesia. You might undergo blood and heart tests to help your doctors determine whether your body is healthy enough for the medication that will put you to sleep during the procedure.
  • Undergo Scans To Plan For Treatment. Your radiation oncologist and the other members of the treatment planning team use imaging scans of your prostate, such as ultrasound, computerized tomography (CT), and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), to determine the dose and placement of the radiation. These tests can be carried out either in advance of or right at the start of your procedure.

Details About What You Can Expect During Prostate Brachytherapy

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


Low Dose Rate (LDR) Brachytherapy

In contrast to HDR prostate brachytherapy, which involves temporarily implanting radioactive sources, LDR prostate brachytherapy involves permanently implanting radioactive sources in the prostate. The term “seed implants” also applies to LDR brachytherapy.

You might be given anesthesia during this procedure so that you won’t be conscious and won’t feel any pain.

You have a wand-shaped device placed into your rectus. Your prostate is captured in ultrasound images by this device. The images aid in directing the placement of several radioactive implants—which resemble seeds—into your prostate using a long needle. The prostate is reached by passing the needle through the skin between your scrotum and anus (perineum). The seeds, which are about the size of rice grains, will emit radiation for a few months and stay in your body forever.

You will spend some time in a recovery area after the seeds are injected into your body before you are allowed to return home. Although the seeds’ low radiation levels typically pose no threat to others, you might be asked to temporarily avoid being in close proximity to young children and expectant women as a precaution. Your doctor might suggest that you use a condom when having sex.


What Are The Side Effects Of Brachytherapy For Prostate Cancer? Here Is What To Know
What Are The Side Effects Of Brachytherapy For Prostate Cancer? Here Is What To Know


High Dose Rate (HDR) Brachytherapy

In contrast to LDR prostate brachytherapy, which involves leaving radioactive sources in your body permanently, HDR prostate brachytherapy involves placing radioactive sources in your body for a few minutes at a time.

Thin tubes are carefully placed into your prostate through the perineum prior to HDR brachytherapy treatments. This portion of the procedure will be done while you are unconscious and pain-free. The tubes are left in place until all of your treatments are finished.

The tubes are attached to a device that feeds wires containing radioactive sources into the prostate during HDR brachytherapy treatments. For a certain period of time, usually several minutes, the radioactive wires are left in place. The machine may make clicking sounds while it adjusts the cables. The radioactive wires are then taken out. Depending on your individual treatment plan, the procedure might be repeated several times.

After HDR brachytherapy, the radioactive source is removed from your body, so you won’t need to take any extra precautions to keep a safe distance from other people.


After The Procedure

You should prepare for some discomfort and perineal swelling following prostate brachytherapy. Applying an ice pack and taking the painkillers your doctor has advised may help you feel better.

When you feel ready, you can resume your regular activities. Your doctor might advise you to refrain from strenuous activity and heavy lifting while you’re recovering.



You can have further blood tests to check the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels in your blood after prostate brachytherapy. Your doctor may be able to tell from these tests if the treatment was effective.

Your PSA level may spike after prostate brachytherapy, drop, and then spike again (PSA bounce). To ensure that your PSA level doesn’t keep increasing, your doctor will likely keep checking it.

When can you anticipate learning whether your prostate cancer is responding to treatment? Ask your doctor.


Treatment For A Rising PSA After Brachytherapy

After brachytherapy, a consistently increasing PSA level might mean that the cancer has come back. To check for cancer signals, your doctor can advise imaging tests and a prostate biopsy.

There are numerous therapies available if your cancer has returned and is limited to your prostate, including surgeries to remove the prostate or treatments to freeze the cancer cells with extremely cold liquid (cryotherapy) (salvage prostatectomy).

Other therapies, such as hormone therapy, may be taken into account if your cancer has spread outside of your prostate.

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