Internal Radiation Therapy
Internal radiation therapy is an effective treatment option for treating various cancers such as the brain, eye, cervix, prostate, skin, vaginal, uterine, mouth, breast, etc. It involves the placement of radioactive pellets inside the tumor or next to it. Radiations from the radioactive substance kill the cancerous cells. Internal radiation therapy can specifically target the cancer cells and spare the healthy tissues or cells.
Cancers of the brain, eye, cervix, prostrate, breasts, etc.
How Is It Performed?
Internal radiation therapy is performed under sedatives and anesthesia to block the pain and sensation. The radioactive pellets are placed inside or near the tumor using an applicator device or a catheter. Depending upon the cancer and its stage, the pellets could be placed during the active treatment or permanently, as follows:
High-dose radiations are transmitted from the implant for around 10-20 minutes, and then the implant is removed. Depending upon the type of cancer, the frequency of treatment could vary from a few days to a few weeks.
Also known as seed implantation, this technique employs placing seed-sized implants that emit radiation for 24 hours until the radiation has faded away.
- Before the treatment, you might need to undergo some blood tests, including bleeding time or clotting time to determine your suitability for the procedure. In addition, depending upon the location of the cancer, you might need to undergo a pre-anesthesia check-up (PAC) or anesthesia sensitivity testing.
- Diet before the procedure: Make sure to not eat at least 6-8 hours before the procedure to avoid any complications.
- Medications: You need to take your medications before the procedure in consultation with your doctor. You might be advised to stop certain drugs like aspirin before the procedure.
- You should reach the hospital at least 2-4 hours in advance, as you will be kept under observation for some time before the procedure.
You should complete your follow-ups as per the schedule to ensure a complication-free recovery. You must avoid coming in contact with pregnant women and children for a few days, if you have permanent radioactive implants. In addition, you should take proper rest as recommended by your doctor and not overexert. Avoid bending or excessive stretching for a few weeks and seek help from your family members or friends. You can start returning to your routine activities in a few days. However, avoid strenuous exercises such as running, weight lifting, etc., for about a month or more. Make sure to adhere to the follow-up plan with your surgeon to assess the recovery and the need for any additional interventions.
Being a targeted therapy, internal radiation therapy is safer; however, the risks associated with this therapy could vary depending upon the type of cancer and the location.
The side effects or risks could include the following:
- Nausea or vomiting
- Bowel movement change
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Hair loss
- Sores in mouth
- Difficulty in urination
- Erectile dysfunction
- Shortness of breath
- Skin irritation
- Painful sexual intercourse
- Vaginal dryness
- Localised bleeding and pain.
Depending on the type of cancer and type of radiation therapy, you will be transferred to the recovery room after a few hours or a couple of days. You will be shifted to the hospital room or ward, and either the same day or within a couple of days, you will be discharged from the hospital.
Most of the side effects of radiation therapy will disappear shortly after the implants are removed. The soreness or pain at the site of the treatment may continue to bother you for a few days. You can start returning to your normal activities a few days after being discharged. However, avoid heavy-duty work for a few weeks that could stress your body. Getting regular follow-ups done per the schedule is also crucial to achieving a complication-free recovery. Take your medications, including painkillers, etc., as prescribed. If you experience unexplained pain, excessive vomiting, or any other side effects, seek medical attention.