Radiation Seeds Side Effects
May 12, 2011 | By Traci Joy, Livestrong.com
One method of cancer radiation treatment is called brachytherapy. The American Cancer Society explains that brachytherapy involves placing radioactive pellets, or “seeds,” inside the body, directly near the cancer. These seeds deliver doses of radiation for several weeks at a time. While brachytherapy can be used for several inoperable cancers, it is mainly used for prostate cancer. There are some side effects that one considering brachytherapy should be aware of.
Non-Invasive Advanced Cancer Treatment
The Radiation Medical Group, Inc., reports that most who undergo radiation seed implants experience only temporary issues with the urinary tract that resolve themselves once treatment has stopped. Unfortunately there are some that experience urinary problems that range from mild to severe in nature. These side effects can include an increase in urinary frequency, pain during urination, blood in the urine, incontinence and a severe constriction of the urethral tube, which can block the flow of urine and require surgery. The blood in the urine may be the result of radiation damage to the bladder, which may also require a surgical procedure to correct.
Radiation seeds can also cause rare, but significant, damage to the rectum. Rectal side effects may include bleeding from the rectum, which is often a result of radiation injury to tiny blood vessels. Rectal bleeding may also be the result of a rectal ulcer, which can occur in the rectal wall and may require surgery such as a colostomy to divert the stool from the rectum. The American Cancer Society reports that bowel or rectal problems develop in less than 5 percent of brachytherapy patients.
When used for prostate treatment, radiation seed therapy can also cause sexual dysfunction or impotence. A report from Harvard Medical School states that rates for sexual dysfunction are not necessarily higher for those who undergo seed radiation as compared with external radiation, and in fact there may be lower occurrence of impotence with brachytherapy. They do state that the risk of impotence will vary with age and the degree of sexual function before treatment.
Movement of Seeds
The American Cancer Society reports that in very rare cases, the seeds can move from the area of placement and travel to other areas of the body, such as the lungs. Doctors state that this causes no problems or additional effects. However, the Radiation Medical Group does report that there has been a case in which two seeds traveled to the heart of a patient, causing cardiac death. This scenario is extremely rare, with the odds of it happening being 1 in 100,000.
There are other cancers that are treated with radiation seeds, such as certain types of lung cancers or ovarian cancers. It is a treatment that is often used when cancer surgery carries too high of a risk. The main side effect noted with radiation seed use in these other cancers is the movement of the seeds throughout the body, which is rare.