What is Brachytherapy for Prostate Cancer?
Brachytherapy, also referred to as internal radiation, is a form of radiation therapy used to treat prostate cancer and other types of cancer. It enables a doctor to administer higher doses of radiation to specific areas of a patient’s body in contrast to external beam radiation, which projects radiation from a machine outside of the body. Also, brachytherapy results in fewer side effects and a shorter treatment time in comparison to external beam radiation.
Patients may receive brachytherapy on its own or in combination with other cancer treatments. Additionally, a doctor may recommend brachytherapy in various instances, such as:
- Initial treatment for low-grade cancer that is located exclusively in the prostate gland
- Initial treatment for cancer that has moved outside the prostate gland and into nearby tissues
- Cancer has not been completely eliminated
- Cancer recurs in the prostate following surgery
- Cancer is in an advanced stage; in this instance, brachytherapy may help a patient alleviate or prevent cancer symptoms
Types of Prostate Brachytherapy Treatments
There are two types of brachytherapy. These are:
- Permanent (Low Dose Rate): Involves the use of pellets (seeds) of radioactive material that are inserted into the skin via thin needles. The seeds travel a short distance and transmit radiation to a small area, thereby limiting the risk of damage to nearby tissues.
- Temporary (High Dose Rate): Involves the use of high doses of radiation that remain in place for a short period of time. Temporary brachytherapy patients receive radiation via hollow needles. Each treatment lasts between 5 and 15 minutes, and patients may receive several short treatments over the course of a few days.
High-Dose-Rate vs. Low-Dose-Rate Brachytherapy
High-dose-rate brachytherapy is usually performed as an outpatient procedure, and radioactive seeds are inserted into a patient’s body for up to 20 minutes. A patient may undergo one or two daily treatment sessions over several days or weeks, and treatments are administered with assistance from a computerized machine.
Low-dose-rate brachytherapy involves the use of a continuous low dose of radiation that is released over several hours or days. A patient typically stays in a hospital while the radiation is in place, and the radioactive material is administered by hand or machine. Also, brachytherapy devices may be used during treatment, and a patient may require anesthesia or sedation to reduce discomfort. A patient will likely stay in a private room during low-dose-rate brachytherapy, as there is a small risk that the radioactive material inside his or her body may harm others.
How is MRI Brachytherapy Used to Treat Prostate Cancer?
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans provide a doctor with 3D images that highlight tumor volume, as well as images that show how tumor volume and shape have changed between brachytherapy treatment sessions. As such, an MRI scan may be performed before a brachytherapy session to help a doctor tailor the dose to a patient’s anatomy.
An MRI allows a doctor to account for organs that may be at risk during brachytherapy and tumor regression or movement, too. By using MRI scans, a doctor can simultaneously administer the highest-possible radiation dose to a patient and limit his or her of risk of unwanted side effects.
Benefits of Choosing Brachytherapy
Brachytherapy is a minimally invasive procedure that may offer a quicker recovery period, less time in a hospital, and a limited risk of postoperative infection in comparison to other cancer treatments. Plus, brachytherapy has been shown to help prostate cancer patients reduce the risk of impotence and incontinence that are commonly associated with radical prostatectomy.
Schedule a Brachytherapy Consultation at Comprehensive Urology in Los Angeles
At Comprehensive Urology in Los Angeles, our urologists are happy to teach prostate cancer patients about all aspects of brachytherapy. Please contact us today at (310) 499-2756 to schedule a consultation with one of our friendly, highly trained urologists.