Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How does brachytherapy work?

Brachytherapy works by inserting a source of radiation directly next to or inside a cancerous tumor. The way brachytherapy is administered depends on a number of factors, including the location and size of the tumor, and whether the cancer has spread to other sites in the body. With HDR brachytherapy, the source of radiation is left in place for a short period of time (minutes), and then removed. With LDR brachytherapy, the sources are left in place for much longer (several days), or permanently. Permanent brachytherapy is often used to treat prostate cancer by placing tiny radioactive seeds in the area to be treated. The radiation dosage gradually diminishes over time. Click here to read more.

Q: What are the side effects of brachytherapy?

The side effects of brachytherapy are typically localized in the area being treated. Side effects depend on a number of factors, such as the type of cancer being treated, the stage of the cancer, or if the patient has any other ongoing health problems. Most of the acute side effects associated with brachytherapy can be treated with medication and usually disappear over time, typically a matter of weeks after treatment is completed. Long-term side effects may occur in a small number of patients and are generally an effect of the radiation on adjacent tissues or organs. For more information, click here.

Q: Will my radiotherapy affect other people?

If temporary brachytherapy is used, no radioactive sources remain in the body after treatment. Therefore, there is no radiation risk to friends or family. When undergoing permanent brachytherapy (LDR) treatment for prostate, a common concern is that the patient will give off a degree of radiation as low-activity radioactive sources (seeds) are left in the body after treatment. However, the radiation levels are very low and decrease over time. After the seeds are implanted the patient does not become radioactive – only the seeds are radioactive. The patient is not a hazard to other people, although it is sometimes recommended as a precaution that they avoid holding young children or being close to pregnant women during the first two months after the implant procedure.