What you can expect
What you can expect during prostate brachytherapy depends on the type of brachytherapy treatment you'll receive.
Low dose rate (LDR) brachytherapy
LDR prostate brachytherapy involves placing radioactive sources in the prostate permanently, rather than being placed temporarily, as is the case with HDR brachytherapy. LDR brachytherapy is also known as seed implants.
During this procedure, you may be placed under anesthesia so that you aren't aware during the procedure and won't feel pain.
A wandlike instrument is inserted into your rectum. This instrument creates ultrasound pictures of your prostate. The pictures help to guide a long needle that's used to place many seedlike radioactive implants in your prostate. The needle is inserted through the skin between your scrotum and your anus (perineum) and into your prostate. The seeds, about the size of grains of rice, will give off radiation for a few months and will remain in your body permanently.
Once the seeds are placed in your body, you'll spend some time in a recovery area, and then you can go home. The low levels of radiation in the seeds generally aren't harmful to others, but as a precaution, you may be asked to avoid close contact with children and pregnant women for a short time. Your doctor may advise you to wear a condom during sex.
High dose rate (HDR) brachytherapy
HDR prostate brachytherapy involves placing radioactive sources in your body for several minutes at a time, compared with leaving them in your body permanently, as is done with LDR brachytherapy.
Before receiving HDR brachytherapy treatments, thin tubes are inserted through the perineum and into your prostate at precise locations. You'll be under anesthesia for this part of the procedure so that you aren't aware and won't feel pain. The tubes are kept in place until you've completed your treatments.
For HDR brachytherapy treatments, the tubes are connected to a machine that feeds wires containing radioactive sources into the prostate. The radioactive wires are left in place for a set amount of time, typically several minutes. You may hear clicking noises as the machine adjusts the wires. Then the radioactive wires are removed. The procedure may be repeated a few times, depending on your specific treatment plan.
The radioactive source is removed from your body after HDR brachytherapy, so you won't need any special precautions to avoid close contact with other people.
After the procedure
After prostate brachytherapy, you can expect some pain and swelling in the perineum. You may find relief by placing an ice pack over the area and taking pain medication prescribed by your doctor.
You can resume normal activities when you feel up to it. Your doctor may give you instructions for your recovery, such as avoiding vigorous exercise and heavy lifting.