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patient education : 17034--Interstitial Brachytherapy

Information from Radiation Oncology about giving a higher dose of radiation to the tumor area to treat cancer.

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PDF document icon PE17034_eng_Interstitial Brachytherapy.pdf — PDF document, 42 KB (43753 bytes)
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    What is it?  Brachytherapy, or internal radiation therapy, is a way of giving a higher dose of radiation to the tumor area while sparing or reducing radiation exposure to other organs such as bowel or bladder. 

    Interstitial catheters are hollow narrow tubes that hold radiation and temporarily stay in the tumor during an inpatient hospital stay for a total of 5 radiation treatments.  If your MD recommends only 2 treatments, this can be done on 2 separate visits with the interstitial catheters being removed after each procedure.

    Getting Ready:  Before the interstitial procedure, you will meet with your Radiation Oncologist who will explain the procedure and answer any questions you may have.  You will also be asked to sign a consent, giving your permission for this treatment.  A time and date will be set for the procedure. 

    You will be given a PETC (Pre-anesthesia Evaluation and Teaching Center) folder as patients do receive general anesthesia for this procedure.  You will need to go the UVA PETC department, which is on the first floor of the main hospital, one to two weeks prior to your scheduled procedure.  You will be evaluated on the safety of undergoing anesthesia.  At the time of the PETC appointment, blood tests, chest x-ray, and EKG will be done.  This visit may take 2-3 hours.

    Additional studies may also be performed if needed.  You will be asked not to eat or drink anything after midnight the night before the procedure.

    Treatments:    On the day of your brachytherapy procedure, you will arrive at Emily Couric Cancer Center 1st floor for registration.  You will then report to the Radiation Oncology department on the ground floor where you will be escorted back to the brachytherapy suite.  There you will meet with anesthesia team including the anesthesia nurses who will prepare you for the procedure.  (change into a gown, insert IV, etc). 

    You will then be taken into the procedure room where the anesthesiologist will have you fall asleep.  A foley catheter will be placed into your bladder, then the interstitial applicators will be inserted by the MD.    The applicators are then checked for proper alignment and placement via CT scan or ultrasound.   The treatment plan is then generated from these images. 

    You will then be hooked up to the radiation source via soft flexible tubes attaching to the applicator/needles.  All staff will leave the room while you are receiving your radiation, but you will be closely monitored through a video camera.  Once the procedure is completed, you will be disconnected from the radiation source.  The needles may remain intact OR removed depending on which treatment you are receiving.  You will then be taken to the recovery area where you will be monitored until you are stable. 

    IF you are staying overnight, you will be admitted into the hospital on bed rest.  You will be given Imodium, and a clear liquid diet progressing to a full liquid diet.  Your foley catheter and the interstitial needles will remain in place during your stay.   You will also receive pain medication by way of a pump for any discomfort that you may have during your stay.  You will be transported daily to ECCCC for radiation treatments.

    Once treatments are completed, the interstitial applicators and the foley catheter will be removed prior to you going home. 

    Discharge Instructions:   After the interstitial procedure, you may experience the following side effects:

    • Vaginal spotting or cramping
    • Burning upon urination due to foley catheter placement.
    • Fatigue
    • Discomfort to treatment site

    The radiation may cause the vagina to tighten and narrow.  You will be given a dilator to help prevent this.  All instructions will be given to you on your last treatment day. 

    If you develop any signs of infection such as fever, chills, discolored or foul smelling vaginal discharge, or uncontrolled pain or bleeding, please call us immediately: 

    Monday-Friday 8am – 4:30 pm call 434-924-5191After hours, call 434-924-0000 and ask to speak to the radiation oncologist on-call.

    For more information or to see images of this procedure please visit:

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