Treatment of prostate cancer using seed brachytherapy was pioneered in the 1960s as an effective alternative to surgery. The word brachytherapy is derived from the Greek prefix brachy, meaning “short” or “close”, because the seeds containing radioactive material are implanted directly into the cancerous prostate gland.
Also referred to as seed implants or seeds, brachytherapy is a one-time, minimally invasive procedure usually performed in an outpatient setting under general anesthesia. The procedure itself involves the placement of tiny radioactive seeds inside the prostate using ultrasound equipment.
The seed implants immediately emit radiation and kill the malignant cells inside the prostate. The time it takes for the radiation to deliver its total dose depends on the seed (isotope) used. There are currently 3 isotopes commonly used in prostate brachytherapy: Cesium131, Iodine125, and Palladium103. Brachytherapy seeds themselves are compatible with human tissue. After the procedure, patients are taken to recovery and are typically discharged a few hours later. Most patients resume normal activities within 24-48 hours. The most common side effect of brachytherapy is temporary urinary irritation including frequency and urgency. These symptoms will last from a few weeks to a few months.