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Medically reviewed by Last updated on Feb 4, 2024.

What do I need to know about brachytherapy?

Brachytherapy, also called internal radiation therapy, is a type of radiation to treat cancer. The source of radiation is placed in your body or on an area of your body close to the tumor. It is used to shrink the tumor or kill the cancer cells. Brachytherapy may be used with other treatments such as external radiation therapy, medicines, and surgery.

How do I prepare for brachytherapy?

Your healthcare provider will talk to you about how to prepare for brachytherapy. He or she may tell you not to eat or drink anything after midnight on the day of brachytherapy. Your healthcare provider may, instead, tell you to eat healthy foods. He or she will tell you what medicines to take or not take on the day of brachytherapy. Arrange for someone to drive you to and from your treatments.

What will happen during brachytherapy?

The procedure depends on many things, such as where the tumor or tumors are in your body. During brachytherapy, radioactive seeds are placed inside or around the tumor. Seeds are small objects that give off radiation (x-ray energy) in all directions. They can be placed on the skin, in an organ, or in a body cavity. Body cavities are openings in your body, such as your nose, mouth, and vagina. Some seeds can be left in your body permanently, while others will be removed. Brachytherapy may be given in several treatments. You may need to stay in the hospital during this procedure. You may need to return to have treatment every day for about a week.

What will happen after brachytherapy?

You will be able to go home or be taken to your hospital room.

What are the risks of brachytherapy?

Radiation kills cancer cells, but it can also harm healthy cells. You may feel very tired during brachytherapy treatment. You may cough up blood or have blood in your saliva. You may be at an increased risk for urinary tract infections. You may have swelling and pain in organs or tissues. Women may have trouble getting pregnant. Your stomach, bowels, or other organs may not work as well as before, or they may stop working.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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