Brachytherapy: A Promising Treatment for Prostate Cancer
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men, with an estimated 191,930 new cases in the United States in 2020, according to the American Cancer Society. Treatment options for prostate cancer include surgery, radiation therapy, hormone therapy, and watchful waiting. One type of radiation therapy is brachytherapy, a promising treatment that involves placing tiny radioactive seeds directly into the prostate gland.
Brachytherapy is a type of internal radiation therapy. It is sometimes called seed implantation or prostate brachytherapy. The treatment involves placing small radioactive seeds, each about the size of a grain of rice, into the prostate gland. The seeds, also known as sources or implants, emit radiation that destroys cancer cells in the prostate.
Brachytherapy can be used to treat prostate cancer that is confined to the prostate gland and has not spread to other parts of the body. It is often used in combination with other treatments, such as external beam radiation therapy or hormone therapy. Brachytherapy can also be used as a salvage therapy for patients whose cancer has recurred after initial treatment.
The technique used for brachytherapy is called permanent seed implantation. During this procedure, the seeds are placed into the prostate gland using needles that are inserted through the skin between the scrotum and anus. The needles are guided by ultrasound images, which provide a detailed picture of the prostate gland. The seeds are left in place permanently, and over time they become inactive and do not pose a risk to the patient or others.
There are several advantages to brachytherapy for prostate cancer treatment. First, it is minimally invasive, meaning that there is no incision or major surgery required. Second, it is a relatively short procedure, typically taking only a few hours. Third, the recovery time is often shorter than with other treatments, such as surgery. Fourth, brachytherapy has a high success rate, with many patients being cured of their cancer.
However, brachytherapy is not suitable for all patients. It is typically used for patients with early-stage prostate cancer who have a low to intermediate risk of the cancer spreading. Patients with high-risk prostate cancer may not be good candidates for brachytherapy.
Like all medical procedures, brachytherapy does carry some risks. These include side effects such as urinary problems, bowel problems, and erectile dysfunction. However, these side effects are usually temporary and can be managed with medication or other treatments.
In summary, brachytherapy is a promising treatment for prostate cancer, particularly in patients with early-stage cancer who have a low to intermediate risk of the cancer spreading. The procedure is minimally invasive, has a high success rate, and a relatively short recovery time. Patients considering brachytherapy should discuss the procedure with their doctors to determine if it is the right treatment for them.