Learning About Internal Radiation Treatment

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What is internal radiation treatment for cancer?

Radiation treatment uses high-energy rays or radioactive material to kill cancer cells or to keep them from growing.

In internal treatment, your doctor puts an implant of radioactive material into the body. It is placed into or near the cancer so it can kill the cancer cells near it. The material may be left in place or taken out later. The treatment normally does not make your body radioactive. Your doctor will tell you if you can get close to people without exposing them to radiation. Internal treatment is also called brachytherapy (say "bray-kee-THAIR-uh-pee").

The length of treatment depends on the type of cancer you have and the type of radiation. The treatment itself is painless. But it can cause some side effects like fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Areas inside your body can get sore. Most side effects usually go away after treatment ends. But you may feel very tired for 4 to 6 weeks after your last treatment. Talk to your doctor about ways to treat the side effects.

When you find out that you have cancer, you may feel many emotions and may need some help coping. Seek out family, friends, and counsellors for support. You also can do things at home to make yourself feel better while you go through treatment. Call the Canadian Cancer Society (1-888-939-3333) or visit its website at www.cancer.ca for more information.

What can you expect?

  • You may need to be in the hospital to have the implant put in your body and later taken out. You will get some type of anesthesia for pain.
  • Your doctor will place the implant through a thin wire or tube. The type of implant depends on the size and location of the cancer.
  • The area where the implant is placed may be sore for a while.
  • Follow your doctor's directions for how much activity you can do before, during, and after treatment.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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