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Internal Radiation Therapy


Internal radiation therapy, also called brachytherapy, 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.


The week before your procedure:

  • Write down the correct date, time, and location of your procedure.
  • Arrange a ride home. Ask a family member or friend to drive you home after your surgery or procedure. Do not drive yourself home.
  • Ask your healthcare provider if you need to stop using aspirin or any other prescribed or over-the-counter medicine before your procedure or surgery.
  • Bring your medicine bottles or a list of your medicines when you see your healthcare provider. Tell your provider if you are allergic to any medicine. Tell your provider if you use any herbs, food supplements, or over-the-counter medicine.
  • Tell your healthcare provider if you know or think you might be pregnant.
  • You may need x-rays, a CT scan, MRI, or ultrasound to check the location, shape, and size of your tumor. Ask your healthcare provider for more information about these and other tests you may need. Write down the date, time, and location of each test.

The day before your procedure:

You may be given an enema to empty your bowel if you have prostate cancer.

The day of your procedure:

  • An anesthesiologist will talk to you before your surgery. You may need medicine to keep you asleep or numb an area of your body during surgery. Tell healthcare providers if you or anyone in your family has had a problem with anesthesia in the past.
  • Healthcare providers may insert an intravenous tube (IV) into your vein. A vein in the arm is usually chosen. Through the IV tube, you may be given liquids and medicine.
  • You or a close family member will be asked to sign a legal document called a consent form. It gives healthcare providers permission to do the procedure or surgery. It also explains the problems that may happen, and your choices. Make sure all your questions are answered before you sign this form.


What will happen:

The brachytherapy seeds will be placed on your skin, in an organ, or in a body cavity. The way that brachytherapy is given depends on where the tumor or tumors are in your body.

  • Your healthcare provider will give you medicine to numb a body area or make you fall asleep. You may be given antibiotic medicine through your IV to help prevent infection. Your healthcare provider may use a CT scan, MRI, or ultrasound to help him put seeds inside or around your tumor.
  • If your tumor is inside or near a body cavity, catheters (soft, hollow tubes) and brachytherapy seeds may be placed inside an organ or body cavity. By using catheters, your healthcare provider can control how long the seeds stay inside your body. The catheters are left inside your body if you need to have several treatment sessions. The catheter will be removed when your treatment is done. Some tumors are close to the skin surface. A device may be used to push seeds through the skin into those tumors. If your tumor is very hard to reach, your healthcare provider may have to perform surgery to place the seeds or catheters close to your tumor. Healthcare providers may remove your tumor during surgery, and then place brachytherapy seeds or catheters in that area. You may need another surgery at a later date to remove the seeds.

After your procedure:

You may be taken to a room where healthcare providers will watch you closely for problems. Do not try to get out of bed until your healthcare provider says it is okay. Later, you may be able to go home, or you will be taken to your hospital room.


  • You have a fever.
  • You get a cold or flu.
  • You cannot make it to your appointment on time.

Seek Care Immediately if

  • You have severe abdominal or pelvic pain.
  • You feel weak, dizzy, or faint.
  • You have a seizure.
  • You have chest pain or shortness of breath.
  • You have sudden memory changes.


  • 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, and other organs may not work as well as before, or they may stop working.
  • Without internal radiation therapy, tumors can grow bigger and damage tissues around them. You can get very weak, lose weight, and have pain. It may be very hard for your body to heal. Cancer cells may spread and grow into new tumors in other parts of your body. These tumors can cause organ failure.

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.

Ā© Copyright IBM Corporation 2018 Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotesĀ® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or IBM Watson Health

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 (Precare)

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