Ask the Expert: What is brachytherapy treatment for prostate cancer?

Ask the Expert: What is brachytherapy treatment for prostate cancer?

UnityPoint Health – St. Luke’s Nassif Radiation Center is the only provider of brachytherapy in Cedar Rapids. Our robust program is one of the biggest in the state, with patients coming here from throughout the region. Thomas Richardson, M.D. answers the most frequently asked questions below:

What is brachytherapy?

Brachytherapy is a minimally invasive treatment for prostate cancer. Radioactive seeds are implanted in the prostate gland. The seeds deliver a precise dose of radiation energy that destroys cancer cells, with very little effect on surrounding tissue. Brachytherapy may be used alone or in combination with external beam radiation and/or hormonal therapy.

What are the advantages of brachytherapy?

The seeds are implanted without a surgical incision, so brachytherapy offers a faster recovery. And because it’s basically an outpatient procedure, most patients go home the same day. The seeds then work to destroy the cancer cells while the patient goes about his regular activities—unlike external beam radiation therapy, which requires daily visits to the Radiation Center for several weeks. Brachytherapy is less likely to damage healthy tissue and offers a lower risk for incontinence and erectile dysfunction.

Who is a candidate for brachytherapy?

Brachytherapy is a common treatment option for men with early stage prostate cancer. For patients who are a candidate, we have a detailed discussion with them about treatment options so they can decide which approach is right for them.

How does brachytherapy’s effectiveness compare with other treatments?

In appropriately selected patients, studies show comparable results with surgical removal of the prostate, along with the benefits of faster recovery and fewer side effects.

Is this a new treatment option?

I’ve been treating prostate cancer with brachytherapy for 20 years. Today we continue to pursue advances in technology to provide the safest, most precise delivery of brachytherapy. We also follow up with patients to ensure we are effectively treating their prostate cancer.

To learn more about brachytherapy, contact the Community Cancer Center at (319) 558-4876.

Thomas Richardson, M.D., is a board-certified urologist with Physicians’ Clinic of Iowa and the Helen G. Nassif Community Cancer Center. He specializes in adult and pediatric urology and urologic cancer care.

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