Prostate Cancer

Brachytherapy for prostate cancer

Brachytherapy is a form of internal radiotherapy. There are two main forms of brachytherapy, permanent seed brachytherapy, when radioactive 'seeds' are implanted permanently into the prostate, and high dose brachytherapy, when the 'seeds' are only left in place for a short period of time. Brachytherapy on its own as a treatment is not recommended for men with high-risk localised prostate cancer (NICE 2014 CG175).

Men, who had seeds permanently implanted, described their treatment. One wished he had been warned about discomfort following brachytherapy, while others recalled that they had been given detailed explanations about the procedure and its side effects, (See 'Side effects - bowel and bladder section'). 

One of these men stressed the importance of finding a skilled and experienced surgeon for any new procedure. One man, who went to the USA for his treatment, had this type of brachytherapy (with permanent seeds implanted) combined with Conformal beam radiation. A computed tomography scan (CT scan) of the prostate produces an image, which is fed into a computer. This produces a 3D image of the prostate and the radioactive beams can then be emitted to the exact size and shape of the gland, thus reducing damage to the surrounding normal tissue.

This reduces the side effects of treatment and can allow higher doses to be given, which may be more effective.

Another man had brachytherapy with seeds that were removed after treatment. This man also had some external radiotherapy just before the brachytherapy.

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Last reviewed July 2017.
Last updated March 2015.


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