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Internal Radiation Therapy


What is 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.

How is brachytherapy done?

The way that brachytherapy is given 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 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.
  • 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.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You have a fever.
  • You get a cold or flu.
  • You cannot make it to your procedure on time.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care?

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • You get new or 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.

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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Further information

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

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