Brachytherapy is a technique for treating prostate cancer using tiny radioactive seeds (Iodine 125) that can be implanted into the prostate gland using needles.
‘Brachy’ is derived from the Greek word for ‘short’, and in this treatment the radioactive seeds are inserted directly into the prostate gland in contrast to conventional radiotherapy where it travels a distance through air and the body tissues before it reaches the prostate gland.
The latest techniques for brachytherapy were developed in the mid-1980s with the arrival of sophisticated ultrasound probes. These devices enable the accurate implantation of seeds into the prostate gland, thus allowing high doses of radiation to be delivered to the cancer.
There are now good long-term results from patients treated up to 20 years ago to show this form of treatment is highly effective in treating and curing patients with early prostate cancer. Brachytherapy appears as effective as other conventional treatments such as surgery (radical prostatectomy) or standard external beam radiotherapy.
Brachytherapy is not the only effective treatment for prostate cancer and some patients may be more suitably treated by other conventional treatments depending on their precise circumstances.