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Getting Internal Radiation Therapy (Brachytherapy)

Getting Internal Radiation Therapy (Brachytherapy)

Brachytherapy is another term for internal radiation. Inside the body, a radioactive implant is placed in or near the tumor. The process to put the implant is typically painless. You may have a temporary or permanent implant, depending on your cancer type and treatment strategy.


What is internal radiation therapy?

Internal radiation therapy (brachytherapy) enables a greater dosage of radiation to be delivered in a smaller area than external radiation therapy. It makes use of a radiation source that is generally contained in a tiny container known as an implant. Pellets, seeds, ribbons, wires, needles, capsules, balloons, and tubes are various names for different types of implants. Regardless of the type of implant utilized, it is implanted in your body, either near or inside the tumor. As a result, as few normal cells as possible are harmed by the radiation.

The radioactive source is inserted in a bodily cavity (space), such as the rectum or uterus, during intracavitary radiation.The implants used in interstitial radiation are implanted in or near the tumour rather than in a bodily cavity.


How are implants placed in the body?

The implant technique is often performed in a hospital operating room that has been constructed to keep radiation contained within the room. You’ll be given anaesthesia, which can be either general (drugs are used to put you to sleep so you don’t feel pain) or local (drugs are used to put you to sleep so you don’t feel pain) (where part of your body is numbed).Implants are maintained in containers that confine the radiation so that it does not damage others until they are implanted. When the implants are removed from the container, the health professionals handling them may be required to wear protective equipment.

When it comes to implants, how long do they last?

The amount of time an implant remains in place is determined on the type of brachytherapy you get. Some implants last a lifetime, while others are removed after a few hours or days. The sort of implant you receive will be determined by the type of cancer you have, where it is located in your body, your overall health, and previous therapies. If an implant is permanent, the radiation from it decreases over time and eventually stops emitting radiation.

High-dose-rate brachytherapy


High-dose-rate (HDR) brachytherapy uses a strong radioactive source that is placed in the applicator to treat a patient for many minutes at a time. After 10 to 20 minutes, the source is gone. This can be done twice a day for a few days or once a day for a few weeks. The radioactive substance in your body is not retained. It is possible to leave the applicator in place between treatments or to insert it before each one.If many day treatments are required and the applicator is kept in place, patients may be admitted to the hospital. There may be special precautions to take after the treatment, so be sure to talk to the cancer care team about this.

Low-dose-rate brachytherapy

The implant emits smaller amounts of radiation over a longer period of time in this method.

Some implants are kept in for a day or two before being removed. During treatment, you’ll most likely have to stay in the hospital, possibly in a separate room. To avoid bigger implants from shifting, you may need to stay in bed and lie motionless.Some tiny implants (such as seeds or pellets) are never removed from the body. They eventually quit emitting radiation after a few weeks. The seeds or pellets are roughly the size of rice grains and pose very few issues. You may be able to go home the same day your implants are placed if they are to be left in. If there are any specific precautions to take, be sure to discuss them with your cancer care team.

How will implant treatment make me feel?

While implants are being placed, you shouldn’t expect to be in a lot of discomforts or feel ill. The medicines used during the procedure may cause you to feel drowsy, weak, or sick to your stomach, but these side effects are temporary. You may have soreness in the area where your implant is kept in place by an applicator. If you have an implant that requires you to be in bed for a few days, you may have aches and pains as a result of your inactivity. If you need it, ask for medication to help you relax or ease discomfort. If you have burning, sweating, or other symptoms, make sure to notify your cancer care team.

When a temporary implant is removed, what occurs next?

When the applicator and/or implant are withdrawn, anesthesia is usually not required. It’s generally done in the comfort of your own hospital room. After treatment, the treated region may be painful or sensitive for a while, but most individuals may quickly resume their usual activities. Remember that your body is healing after radiation treatments, and you may require additional sleep or rest periods in the coming days.

What happens to implants that are permanent?

The radioactive materials eventually stop emitting radiation. It might take several weeks or months. Consult your cancer care team to determine how long it will take in your specific situation. The implant(s) are no longer active after the radiation is removed. There’s no need to remove them because they generally stay put and cause no harm.

Will I be radioactive during or after treatment with internal radiation?

Internal radiation therapy exposes your body to a modest amount of radiation for a brief period of time.

If you have a temporary implant, you will be required to stay in the hospital throughout treatment and may be restricted in your visits. You may also be required to keep a specific distance between you and them. It’s possible that pregnant ladies and children won’t be permitted to see you. Depending on the type of implant, your body will likely stop emitting radiation after it is removed. Over a few weeks to months, permanent implants will slowly stop giving off radiation. The radiation usually doesn’t travel much farther than the area being treated, so the chances that others could be exposed to radiation is very small. Still, your health care team might ask you to take certain precautions such as staying away from small children and pregnant women, especially right after you get the implants.  


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