Low Dose Rate (LDR) Brachytherapy

Brachytherapy, a procedure in which radioactive seeds are placed directly into the prostate, is a common treatment option for prostate cancer in its early stages. A benefit for patients that choose this procedure is shorter treatment time compared to treatments done with an external source. The Nassif St. Luke’s Radiation Center is the only provider in the Cedar Rapids area to offer this service.


In certain men who have prostate cancer, brachytherapy is an option that offers quick, minimally invasive treatment with good cancer control. The seeds (Iodine 125), which are about the size of a grain of rice, are inserted directly into the prostate gland. The seeds give off a know amount of radiation into the surrounding prostate tissue. In this procedure, the radiation is placed as close to the cancerous cells as possible so the pelvic organs are exposed to less radiation than they would be with external beam radiation.


In Brachytherapy, the seeds are implanted without surgical incision. Instead, they are inserted through the skin of the perineum (behind the scrotum and in front of the anus) using small pre-loaded needles. General or spinal anesthesia is used. Every seed is placed carefully at a predetermined location and depth. A template attached to an ultrasound probe is used to guide placement and a computer plan is designed specifically for the size of the patient’s prostate.

The seeds are implanted throughout the prostate gland by radiation oncologists and urologists. Approximately 50 to 125 seeds containing radioactive Iodine – 125 are implanted, with the total number of seeds depending on the glands size. Once implanted, the seeds can give off radiation into the cancer of the prostate for up to a year.


Brachytherapy delivers the prescribed dose of radiation directly to the cancerous cells. Radiation to surrounding tissues such as the urethra and rectum is limited. The seeds are often implanted permanently and the radiation will dissipate over time. Patients may use Brachytherapy alone or in combination with other treatments, such as external beam radiation and/or hormonal therapy.

Brachytherapy is usually done on an outpatient basis. On average the procedure is about one to one-and-a-half hours. Prior to implantation, an additional ultrasound image is taken of the prostate to ensure the seeds will be placed where needed. To ensure no discomfort during the procedure patients may receive general or spinal anesthesia.

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

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