Internal Radiation ~ Health Guide

Health Guide

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Internal Radiation

Written by Mystic on Monday, August 04, 2008

Internal Radiation (also known as brachytherapy) involves placing an implant of radioactive material such as caesium or iridium into the body, close to the cancerous tissue. You may need to be in hospital for this treatment for several days.

You will be advised by your doctor and nurse about any limitations or side effects from this treatment. Radiotherapy with implants is most commonly used to treat cancers of the uterus, cervix and soft tissue and sometimes mouth and neck.

Your doctor may suggest treatment using brachytherapy alone or in combination with external therapy.

How is the implant placed in my body?

Some implants require admission to hospital, and you may require an anaesthetic while the doctor inserts the implant.

Other implants may be given on an outpatient basis. An applicator may be inserted in the brachytherapy suite and radioactive material may be introduced through an applicator. Treatment takes approximately 5 - 10 minutes.

Implants are made from different radioactive materials and come in different shapes. The type of implant you'll receive will depend on the type of cancer that you have.

How long will the implant stay in my body?

Once inserted, most implants are left in place from 1 to 6 days. It is likely you'll stay in hospital for this time.

With some cancers (eg. prostate cancer) an implant may be left in place permanently. Other inserts (eg. iridium) may be in place for a matter of minutes. Discuss your type of implant with the doctor.

Will the implant be painful?

You may feel some discomfort, but should not experience severe pain or feel ill during implant therapy. If your implant is held in place by an applicator, you may feel uncomfortable. If this is the case tell your doctor because there may be a medication to relieve the discomfort.

Will I be radioactive?

While your implant is in place it may send some radiation outside your body. This is why hospitals do not allow children under 18 or pregnant women to visit people with implants.

Once the implant is removed all traces of radioactivity disappear. If you have a permanent implant, you may need to stay in the isolated room in the hospital for the first few days while the radiation is most active. The implant becomes less radioactive each day, so by the time you are ready to go home radiation in your body will be very weak. You will be checked thoroughly before you are allowed to go home.

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