What is internal radiation therapy (brachytherapy)?

Internal Radiation Therapy (Brachytherapy)
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After internal radiation therapy (brachytherapy) for prostate cancer: Overview

Radiation therapy is a treatment to destroy cancer cells or shrink tumors. One type of radiation therapy is brachytherapy (say "bray-kee-THAIR-uh-pee"). It puts the radiation source into your body, either inside the tumor or next to it.

Brachytherapy may be used to treat prostate cancer. You may have a low-dose or high-dose treatment.

The area where you had radiation may be sore for a while. You may also have some swelling. It's normal to have some blood in your semen.

Most side effects go away after treatment ends. Side effects include trouble or pain when urinating and diarrhea. But you may feel very tired for 4 to 6 weeks after your last treatment. Tell your doctor if you have problems with a specific side effect.

If you have high-dose-rate treatments, you may need to stay in the hospital until your treatments are finished.

Your doctor will tell you if you need to keep children and pregnant people at a distance for any amount of time because of the radiation you were given.

Your doctor may give you instructions on when you can do your normal activities again, such as driving and going back to work.

How can you care for yourself after internal radiation therapy (brachytherapy) for prostate cancer?


  • Rest when you feel tired.
  • Be active. Walking is a good choice.
  • Allow your body to heal. Don't move quickly or lift anything heavy until you are feeling better.
  • Follow your doctor's instructions about sexual activity while you're healing.


  • You can eat your normal diet. If your stomach is upset, try bland, low-fat foods like plain rice, broiled chicken, toast, and yogurt.


  • Your doctor will tell you if and when you can restart your medicines. The doctor will also give you instructions about taking any new medicines.
  • Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
    • If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
    • If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter medicine.


  • Put ice or a cold pack on the area for 10 to 20 minutes at a time to help with soreness or swelling. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your skin.

Other instructions

  • Avoid sitting on hard seats (such as bicycle seats) for a couple of months after treatment.
  • You may get instructions on caring for the area where the treatment was done.

What is internal radiation therapy (brachytherapy) for cancer?

Radiation treatment uses high-energy rays or radioactive material to kill cancer cells or to keep them from growing.

In internal treatment, your doctor puts an implant of radioactive material into your body. It is placed into or near the cancer so it can kill the cancer cells near it. The material may be left in place or taken out later. The treatment normally does not make your body radioactive. Your doctor will tell you if you can get close to people without exposing them to radiation. Internal treatment is also called brachytherapy (say "bray-kee-THAIR-uh-pee").

The length of treatment depends on the type of cancer you have and the type of radiation. The treatment itself is painless. But it can cause some side effects like fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Areas inside your body can get sore. Most side effects usually go away after treatment ends. But you may feel very tired for 4 to 6 weeks after your last treatment. Talk to your doctor about ways to treat the side effects.

Internal radiation therapy (brachytherapy) for prostate cancer: When to call

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You passed out (lost consciousness).

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have a fever.
  • You have shaking chills.
  • You have bleeding from your rectum.
  • You have new or worse pain.
  • You think you have an infection.
  • You have new symptoms, such as a cough, belly pain, vomiting, diarrhea, or a rash.
  • You can't pass urine.
  • You have new or more blood clots in your urine. (It is normal for the urine to be pink for a few days.)

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You do not get better as expected.

What can you expect as you recover from internal radiation therapy (brachytherapy) for cancer?

  • The area where the implant is placed may be sore for a while.
  • Follow your doctor's directions for how much activity you can do before, during, and after treatment.

How is internal radiation therapy (brachytherapy) for cancer done?

  • You may need to be in the hospital to have the implant put in your body and later taken out. You will get some type of anesthesia for pain.
  • Your doctor will place the implant through a thin wire or tube. The type of implant depends on the size and location of the cancer.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.