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What Are the Complications of Brachytherapy?


Updated December 28, 2010

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Question: What Are the Complications of Brachytherapy?

The most common symptoms that appear within the first few days after source implantation for brachytherapy are urinary symptoms, such as urgency, frequency and pain with urination. These normally temporary symptoms are likely due to swelling and irritation of the prostate from the implantation procedure.

Long-term urinary symptoms are uncommon, but possible. A certain percentage of men will have persisten urinary incontinence, urinary voiding irritation or other urinary problems that require further treatment.

Bowel symptoms, such as rectal urgency, bowel frequency, or bleeding into the stools, can also occur. Some studies have found that these symptoms tend to get better over time, though.

Impotency (erectile dysfunction) is also a complication in a fair number of patients treated with brachytherapy.

All of these complications can also be seen with radical prostatectomy or with EBRT. Discussing the risk of these complications with your doctor is very important before making your choice among treatment options.

Gelblum DY; Potters L. Rectal complications associated with transperineal interstitial brachytherapy for prostate cancer. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 2000 Aug 1;48(1):119-24.

Mabjeesh NJ; Chen J; Stenger A; et al. Preimplant predictive factors of urinary retention after iodine 125 prostate brachytherapy. Urology. 2007 Sep;70(3):548-53.

Wallner K; Roy J; Harrison L. Tumor control and morbidity following transperineal iodine 125 implantation for stage T1/T2 prostatic carcinoma. J Clin Oncol 1996 Feb;14(2):449-53.

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  6. What Are the Complications of Brachytherapy - Are There Complications of Brachytherapy

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