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Internal Radiation Therapy


  • Internal radiation therapy, also called brachytherapy, is a treatment which uses radiation to kill cancer cells. This treatment can make cancer tumors (lumps) stop growing, shrink, or go away. It may also help prevent cancer from spreading to other places in your body. Cancer is a condition where abnormal cells increase in number, growing quickly and out of control. Cancer cells can form a tumor anywhere in your body. The tumor can pinch blood vessels, cutting off blood flow, and pinch nerves, causing numbness and pain. Pinched nerves and blood vessels can hurt body organs and tissues. Cancer cells can break off from the tumor and reach other parts of your body. These cells can grow into new tumors.
  • Brachytherapy can treat tumors in your head, neck, chest, abdomen (stomach), and pelvic area. During brachytherapy, radioactive seeds are placed inside and around your tumors. Seeds are small beads or bars which give off radiation (x-ray energy) around them. Caregivers place the beads so that the tumor gets the most radiation. Your brachytherapy seeds may need to be taken out after a time, or they may be left inside your body. If your tumor is inside or near a body space, catheters (soft, hollow tubes) and brachytherapy seeds may be placed inside the body space. A special device may be used to push seeds through your skin into tumors that are not located very deep in your body. You may need to have surgery to place seeds or catheters in deep areas of your body that have tumors. Brachytherapy works best when tumors are smaller, and are not spreading quickly. Brachytherapy may not cure your cancer, but it may decrease your symptoms and help you live a longer life.


Take your medicine as directed:

Call your primary healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

  • Antibiotics: This medicine is given to fight or prevent an infection caused by bacteria. Always take your antibiotics exactly as ordered by your primary healthcare provider. Do not stop taking your medicine unless directed by your primary healthcare provider. Never save antibiotics or take leftover antibiotics that were given to you for another illness.
  • Pain medicine: You may need medicine to take away or decrease pain.
    • Learn how to take your medicine. Ask what medicine and how much you should take. Be sure you know how, when, and how often to take it.
    • Do not wait until the pain is severe before you take your medicine. Tell caregivers if your pain does not decrease.
    • Pain medicine can make you dizzy or sleepy. Prevent falls by calling someone when you get out of bed or if you need help.

Ask for information about where and when to go for follow-up visits:

For continuing care, treatments, or home services, ask for more information.

  • Your caregiver will check your health to see how well the treatment is working. Your caregiver may need to check your incisions. He may also check seeds or catheters that were placed inside your body. You may also need a CT scan, MRI, or x-rays to check if the seeds are still in the right place.
  • You may need more treatment sessions for your cancer. You may have to come back every day for seven days or more. Ask your caregiver when you need to return for more treatments.


  • You cannot make it to your next appointment.
  • You have a fever.
  • You have a cough or sore throat, or feel weak and achy.
  • You have an upset stomach or your are throwing up.
  • You have trouble having a bowel movement or passing urine.
  • You have questions about your illness, or treatments.


  • You have sudden chest pain or trouble breathing.
  • You have new trouble seeing, talking, or thinking.
  • You have very bad headaches or you have a seizure (convulsion).
  • You have very bad stomach or hip pain.

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.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Learn more about Internal Radiation Therapy (Aftercare Instructions)

Micromedex® Care Notes