Prostate cancer is a form of cancer that develops in the prostate gland. An estimated 15% to 20% of American men develop prostate cancer during their lifetime. Prostate cancer can cause pain, difficulty in urinating and erectile dysfunction. Prostate cancer differs from most other cancers in the body due to the fact that it typically remains dormant for many years. However, in some men prostate cancer can become aggressive. Prostate cancer is considered to be aggressive when the cancer cells metastasize. This is the process whereby it spreads from the prostate gland to other parts of the body, particularly the lymph nodes and the bones.
Men typically seek medical treatment when they begin to have serious urinary problems. These problems are often indicative of prostate enlargement. Symptoms of prostate enlargement can include but not be limited to the following:
1. Frequent urination
2. Urinary urgency
3. Straining to urinate
4. Difficulty starting
5. Incomplete emptying of the bladder
6. Inability to urinate at all
7. A weak urine stream
8. Terminal Dripping
9. A sensation that the bladder has not completely emptied
It is important to note that symptoms of prostate enlargement are not necessarily signs of prostate cancer. These symptoms may simply be an indicator of an enlarged prostate gland. Physicians perform various tests before determining that a patient has cancer. If cancer is present the physician can discuss various treatment options and recommend the best treatment for each patient.
There are various methods for treating prostate cancer. One treatment method involves the use of radiation seeds. Radioactive seed implants are a popular form of radiation therapy for prostate cancer. This procedure is called brachytherapy or internal radiation therapy. There are two types of prostate brachytherapy. They are permanent brachytherapy and temporary brachytherapy.
Permanent brachytherapy also called seed implantation is a method whereby radioactive seeds or pellets (about the size of a grain of rice) are placed in or near the tumor and leaving them there permanently. Over time the level of radioactivity diminishes so that after several months the radioactivity level of the implants will be practically zero. These inactive seeds are allowed to remain in the body because they present no further effect on the patient.
Temporary brachytherapy refers to the use of implants such as hollow needles, catheters or balloons filled with fluid which are inserted into or near the cancer for a specific period of time. These implants are removed after the treatment has ended. This method can be used with either low-dose or high-dose brachytherapy.
A patient having brachytherapy will usually be treated in a hospital on an inpatient basis. The primary reason for this is to protect others from the effects of the radiation while it is active inside the patient’s body. The physician will determine the amount of time the implant will remain. If is it a low-dose implant, it could be left in for several days whereas high-dose implants may be removed after only a few minutes.
Side effects of brachytherapy include urinary problems which can include frequent urination, urgent urination, slower urination and urine streams that are so weak that the patient is unable to empty their bladder. Burning during urination can also occur. Rectal side effects include rectal urgency, rectal frequency, rectal bleeding or discomfort. Erectile dysfunction (ED) can also occur immediately after the implant.
Side effects of brachytherapy are typically mild and short-term. However, because people respond differently to treatments, some side effects can be long-term. Brachytherapy is typically associated with a reduced risk of side effects compared to other treatment options for prostate cancer.