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Radiation Seed Therapy For Prostate Cancer

What Is The Radioactive Seed Implant Procedure

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Permanent radioactive seed implants are a form of radiation therapy for prostate cancer. The terms “brachytherapy” or “internal radiation therapy” might also be used to describe this procedure.

During the procedure, radioactive seeds are implanted into the prostate gland using ultrasound guidance. The number of seeds and where theyre placed is determined by a computer-generated treatment plan tailored for each patient. About 100 seeds are commonly implanted.

The implants remain in place permanently, and become biologically inert after about 10 months. This technique allows a high dose of radiation to be delivered to the prostate with limited damage to surrounding tissues.

Radioactive seed implants are an outpatient procedure. Compared to external radiation which requires up to seven to seven-and-a-half weeks of daily treatments convenience is a major advantage of this treatment option.

When Is Brachytherapy Alone The Right Choice

For some patients with disease that is confined to the prostate and not too aggressive , brachytherapy alone is a good option. It is also convenient for the patient as it is done in an outpatient setting and most people can get back to work within a few days.

But brachytherapy is not right for everyone. For some patients with less-aggressive disease, a watch-and-wait approach would be preferred. At MSK, our philosophy is that when the disease is caught very early, it is very appropriate to do active surveillance and hold off on treatment.

This philosophy applies to patients with a low PSA level, or nonaggressive disease as reflected by a Gleason score of 6 with evidence of cancer in only a few of the biopsy samples and no evidence from the MRI of a significant amount of disease. There are also very select patients with Gleason 7 disease who may be candidates for active surveillance.

Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy

IMRT, an advanced form of 3D-CRT therapy, is the most common type of external beam radiation therapy for prostate cancer. It uses a computer-driven machine that moves around the patient as it delivers radiation. Along with shaping the beams and aiming them at the prostate from several angles, the intensity of the beams can be adjusted to limit the doses of radiation reaching nearby normal tissues. This lets doctors deliver an even higher radiation dose to the cancer.

Some newer radiation machines have imaging scanners built into them. This advance, known as image guided radiation therapy , lets the doctor take pictures of the prostate just before giving the radiation to make minor adjustments in aiming. This appears to help deliver the radiation even more precisely and results in fewer side effects.

A variation of IMRT is called volumetric modulated arc therapy . It uses a machine that delivers radiation quickly as it rotates once around the body. This allows each treatment to be given over just a few minutes. Although this can be more convenient for the patient, it hasnt yet been shown to be more effective than regular IMRT.

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How Can I Reduce Skin Reactions

  • Gently cleanse the treated area using lukewarm water and a mild soap such as Ivory, Dove, Neutrogena, Basis, Castile, or Aveeno Oatmeal Soap. Do not rub. Pat your skin dry with a soft towel or use a hair dryer on a cool setting.
  • Try not to scratch or rub the treated area.
  • Do not apply any ointment, cream, lotion, or powder to the treated area unless your radiation oncologist or nurse has prescribed it.
  • Do not wear tight-fitting clothing or clothes made from harsh fabrics such as wool or corduroy. These fabrics can irritate the skin. Instead, choose clothes made from natural fibers such as cotton.
  • Do not apply medical tape or bandages to the treated area.
  • Do not expose the treated area to extreme heat or cold. Avoid using an electric heating pad, hot water bottle, or ice pack.
  • Do not expose the treated area to direct sunlight, as sun exposure may intensify your skin reaction and lead to severe sunburn. Choose a sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher. Protect the treated area from direct sunlight even after your course of treatment is over.

Who Should Consider Taking Radiopharmaceuticals

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Radiopharmaceuticals are given through a vein to men with metastatic prostate cancer that has spread widely to the bone. Strontium89 and Samarium-153 are radiopharmaceuticals given to reduce the pain caused by the bone cancer. Radium-223, or Xofigo®, is a radiopharmaceutical given to prolong life.

The side effects associated with radiopharmaceuticals are mainly the suppression, or lowering, of white blood cell and platelet levels in the blood. Your doctor will be able to assess whether your body can handle this side effect before you are given the treatment and will monitor your levels after you receive it. Your doctor, specialist nurse, or nuclear medicine practitioner will be able to give you more information about the treatment and possible side effects.

If your doctor has told you that your bone metastases have spread, you may be a candidate for a radiopharmaceutical. Speak with your oncology team to see if one of these treatments may be right for you.

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What Happens During The Procedure

The entire procedure takes approximately 90 minutes. Most patients go home the same day.

A radiation oncologist and urologist perform the procedure. Both physicians are actively involved in all aspects of the implantation, from the planning to the post-operative care. During the procedure, the urologist provides ultrasound guidance and the radiation oncologist places the radioactive seeds.

The procedure is performed as follows:

Radioprotective Drugs For Reducing Side Effects

One way to reduce side effects is by using radioprotective drugs, but these are only used for certain types of radiation given to certain parts of the body. These drugs are given before radiation treatment to protect certain normal tissues in the treatment area. The one most commonly used today is amifostine. This drug may be used in people with head and neck cancer to reduce the mouth problems caused by radiation therapy.

Not all doctors agree on how these drugs should be used in radiation therapy. These drugs have their own side effects, too, so be sure you understand what to look for.

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Prostate Seed Implantation At Princeton Radiation Oncology Treats Prostate Cancer Effectively

Prostate seed implantation is a minimally invasive procedure for treating prostate cancer in which radioactive seeds are placed in the prostate gland to target cancer cells while maximizing the preservation of healthy tissue. This outpatient procedure requires general anesthesia and takes only a few hours. Most patients return to normal activities within two to three days.

At Princeton Radiation Oncology, our doctors are experts in treating prostate cancer patients using prostate seed implantation, having pioneered its use more than two decades ago.

Side Effects Are Part Of All Types Of Prostate Radiotherapy

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A common misconception among prospective patients is that prostate implantation has fewer side effects than external beam radiation therapy. Nearly all patients suffer from some urethritis . Urinary retention requiring a temporary catheter occurs in 5% of patients.

To learn more about prostate seed implantation to treat prostate cancer, or to schedule a consultation, call . You can also reach us using our easy online form.

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External Beam Radiation Therapy

In EBRT, beams of radiation are focused on the prostate gland from a machine outside the body. This type of radiation can be used to try to cure earlier stage cancers, or to help relieve symptoms such as bone pain if the cancer has spread to a specific area of bone.

You will usually go for treatment 5 days a week in an outpatient center for at least several weeks, depending on why the radiation is being given. Each treatment is much like getting an x-ray. The radiation is stronger than that used for an x-ray, but the procedure typically is painless. Each treatment lasts only a few minutes, although the setup time getting you into place for treatment takes longer.

Newer EBRT techniques focus the radiation more precisely on the tumor. This lets doctors give higher doses of radiation to the tumor while reducing the radiation exposure to nearby healthy tissues.

After Radioactive Seed Brachytherapy

You can usually go home on the same day, but someone will need to take you. You will not be able to drive, because of the anaesthetic. Your doctor or nurse will explain what to expect after treatment and the precautions you need to take.

Before you go home, they give you antibiotics and tablets to help you to pass urine more easily. Take them exactly as explained.

They also give you a card to carry with you at all times. It explains the treatment you have had and gives your hospital contact details.

  • Precautions

    The radioactivity from the seeds is absorbed from inside the prostate, so it is safe for you to be around other people. As a precaution, you should avoid periods of close contact with children and anyone pregnant for the first few months. It is safe for them to be in the same room as you. But you will be asked to keep a certain distance from them. Avoid holding or hugging anyone who is pregnant or children for more than a few minutes each day.

    Your doctor or nurse will give you specific advice about the safety precautions you need to follow.

  • Physical activity

    You need to avoid heavy lifting or energetic physical activity for 2 to 3 days. The area between your legs can feel bruised and inflamed for a few days. Your doctor can prescribe painkillers to take.

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Active Surveillance Also An Option

The researchers did not consider a fourth option: active surveillance. It involves close monitoring of the prostate tumor via tests, digital rectal exams, and intermittent biopsies with the intent of averting treatment unless the cancer progresses.

Active surveillance is a good option for men with smaller or slow-growing tumors or who have other medical conditions that might shorten their life span, Ciezki says. But many men who are good candidates don’t choose it because of anxiety — they feel they have to do something to treat a potentially growing cancer, he says.

Similarly, some men opt for surgery over other treatments because “they want the cancer out of their body,” he says.

There are other considerations as well. Not every man is a good candidate for brachytherapy, for example: The cancer has to be confined to the prostate region and the man has to be able to undergo anesthesia, Ciezki says.

Your Role On Your Radiation Therapy Team

Prostate Center

Youll have a team of healthcare providers working together to care for you. Youre part of that team, and your role includes:

  • Getting to your appointments on time.
  • Asking questions and talking about your concerns.
  • Telling someone on your radiation therapy team when you have side effects.
  • Telling someone on your radiation therapy team if youre in pain.
  • Caring for yourself at home by:
  • Quitting smoking, if you smoke. If you want to quit, call our Tobacco Treatment Program at .
  • Caring for your skin as instructed.
  • Drinking liquids as instructed.

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Brachytherapy For Prostate Cancer

Brachytherapy is a form of internal radiation therapy. With this type of therapy, radiation is delivered to the prostate tumor inside the body via a catheter or another implantable device.

High-dose rate brachytherapy uses radioactive Iridium-192 to deliver high doses of radiation to the prostate tumor. Treatments are short, sometimes requiring as few as five sessions. Brachytherapy radiation more tightly surrounds the tissues were targeting, which may help spare normal tissues.

What Are The Advantages And Disadvantages

What may be important to one man might be less important to someone else. Your doctor, nurse or radiographer can help you choose the right treatment for you. Theres usually no rush to make a decision, so give yourself time to think about things.

Advantages

  • Recovery is quick, so most men can return to their normal activities one or two days after treatment.
  • It delivers radiation directly into the prostate, so there may be less damage to surrounding healthy tissue, and a lower risk of some side effects.
  • You will only be in hospital for one or two days.
  • If your cancer comes back, you may be able to have further treatment.

Disadvantages

  • It can cause side effects such as urinary and erection problems.
  • You will usually need a general or spinal anaesthetic, which can have side effects.
  • It may be some time before you know whether the treatment has been successful.
  • You will need to avoid sitting close to pregnant women or children during the first two months after treatment.

If you are having external beam radiotherapy or hormone therapy as well as permanent seed brachytherapy, think about the advantages and disadvantages of those treatments as well.

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Are You A Candidate

Whether your doctor recommends radiation depends on various factors, including your age, health, and personal preferences. The type of radiation is often dictated by your risk group and whether the cancer is localized or has spread.

Sometimes hormone therapy is given before radiation or along with it. ADT reduces levels of male hormones, called androgens, which can slow or even stop the cancers growth. Studies have found this one-two punch leads to higher survival rates than radiation alone among men with localized prostate cancer and a Gleason score of 7 or higher.

If you opt for surgery, your doctor may suggest radiation afterward, called adjuvant radiation therapy. “You have surgery to remove cancer, and then radiation to eliminate any remaining tumor deposits to keep cancer from returning,” says Dr. Anthony DAmico, a radiation oncologist with Harvards Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Cancer that has grown beyond the prostate also may require post-surgery radiation.

After youve had radiation, youll have a prostate-specific antigen test every three to six months for five years and then annually after that to check for recurrence of the cancer. “If your PSA ever rises above 2, then imaging tests are done, and if needed, additional radiation or other appropriate treatment is given,” says Dr. DAmico.

Possible Side Effects Of Ebrt

Radiation therapy for prostate cancer: What to expect

Some of the side effects from EBRT are the same as those from surgery, while others are different.

Bowel problems: Radiation can irritate the rectum and cause a condition called radiation proctitis. This can lead to diarrhea, sometimes with blood in the stool, and rectal leakage. Most of these problems go away over time, but in rare cases normal bowel function does not return. To help lessen bowel problems, you may be told to follow a special diet during radiation therapy to help limit bowel movement during treatment. Sometimes a balloon-like device or gel is put between the rectum and the prostate before treatment to act like a spacer to lessen the amount of radiation that reaches the rectum.

Urinary problems: Radiation can irritate the bladder and lead to a condition called radiation cystitis. You might need to urinate more often, have a burning sensation while you urinate, and/or find blood in your urine. Urinary problems usually improve over time, but in some men they never go away.

Some men develop urinary incontinence after treatment, which means they cant control their urine or have leakage or dribbling. As described in the surgery section, there are different levels and types of incontinence. Overall, this side effect occurs less often with radiation therapy than after surgery. The risk is low at first, but it goes up each year for several years after treatment.

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What Are The Side Effects

Urinary symptoms are the most common. These include frequent urination and a need to get to the bathroom quickly. Some men have a burning with urination and, in a few cases, an inability to empty the bladder completely.

These symptoms can usually be managed with medicine, and they improve over time. Temporary self-catheterization may be necessary to help drain the bladder.

Urinary incontinence from brachytherapy is rare. The risk may be somewhat increased in patients who have undergone a previous surgical procedure to remove a part of the prostate called a TURP . A doctor can minimize this risk by doing a careful prostate ultrasound before the procedure to determine how much prostate tissue is still present to implant the seeds.

Rectal bleeding occurs in less than 1% of patients. Diarrhea is rare.

The impotence rate at five years after the procedure is about 25% using brachytherapy alone. If hormone therapy is added, the impotence rate rises depending on the duration of the hormonal treatment.

Bowel problems can sometimes happen and include rectal pain, burning pain and diarrhea.

How Long Does It Take To Recover From Radiation Treatment

Theres no doubt radiation therapy can make the difference between life and death for cancer patients, but unfortunately it often comes at a cost.

Radiation therapy is associated with harsh side effects, many of which dont emerge until months or years after treatment. Acute side effects occur and disappear within 14 days of treatment, but long-term effects like bone degeneration, skin ulcers, and bladder irritation take much longer to manifest.

The complications of radiation therapy are frustrating, painful, and often embarrassing, but using ongoing therapy, such as hyperbaric oxygen therapy , can accelerate your radiation therapy recovery in a natural way and stop your symptoms from defining your quality of life.

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