(Ionizing Radiation; Radiotherapy; Brachytherapy)
- External —radiation is delivered by a machine that shoots particles at the cells from outside the body
- Internal—radioactive materials are placed in the body near the cancer cells; this is also called implant radiation or brachytherapy
Reasons for Procedure
- Control the growth or spread of cancer
- Attempt to cure cancer
- Reduce pain or other symptoms caused by cancer—called palliative radiation
- Skin changes such as redness and irritation
- Reduced white blood cell count
- Hair loss
- Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
- Appetite loss
- Previous radiation therapy or chemotherapy
- A personal history of lupus, scleroderma , or dermatomyositis
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
Description of the Procedure
- Interstitial radiation—Rods, ribbons, or wires placed inside the affected tissue on a short-term or permanent basis
- Intracavitary radiation—A container of radioactive material is temporarily placed inside a body cavity, such as the uterus, vagina, or windpipe
|Rods for Internal Radiation|
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How Long Will It Take?
Will It Hurt?
Average Hospital Stay
- Limited visitation: Many hospitals do not allow children under 18 years old or pregnant women to visit a patient having implant radiation. They may visit after the implant is removed. If visitors are allowed, they will need to sit at least 6 feet from the bed. Visits will be limited to 10-30 minutes. Staff may place a shield beside the bed to protect visitors and staff from radiation exposure.
- Limited contact with the staff: The staff will be available to you at all times. They may speak to you from the doorway. They may also come and go quickly to avoid excessive radiation exposure.
Call Your Doctor
- Signs of infection, including fever and chills
- Diarrhea or loss of appetite
- Unexplained weight loss
- Frequent urination, particularly if it is associated with pain or burning sensation
- New or unusual swelling or lumps
- Nausea and/or vomiting that you cannot control with the medications you were given
- Pain that does not go away
- Unusual changes in skin, including bruises, rashes, discharge, or bleeding
- Cough, shortness of breath, or chest pain
- Any other symptom your nurse or doctor told you to look for
- Any new symptoms
National Cancer Institute www.cancer.gov
OncoLink—Abramson Cancer Center at the University of Pennsylvania http://www.oncolink.upenn.edu
Canadian Cancer Society http://www.cancer.ca
Cancer Care Ontario http://www.cancercare.on.ca
Radiation therapy for cancer. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Therapy/radiation. Updated June 30, 2010. Accessed February 24, 2015.
Cancer treatment. Oncolink—University of Pennsylvania Cancer Center website. Available at: http://www.oncolink.upenn.edu/treatment/. Accessed February 24, 2015.
- Reviewer: Igor Puzanov, MD; Michael Woods, MD
- Review Date: 02/2015 -
- Update Date: 03/18/2013 -