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Department of Radiation Oncology

Department of Radiation Oncology

Prostate Brachytherapy


UC Davis offers the most innovative techniques in prostate brachytherapy, thanks to our expert radiation oncologists who have performed this sophisticated treatment for many years. Permanent prostate cancer brachytherapy, also called radioactive seed implant therapy, is an advanced technology that places radioactive seeds close to or directly in the tumor. Because the seeds are so close to the cancer cells, the cancer cells get inundated with radiation while the rectum, bladder, penis and other tissues receive minimal radiation. With seeds, a higher equivalent radiation dose may be delivered to the prostate than with traditional, external beam radiation.

Up to 125 tiny radioactive seeds about the size of a sesame seed are implanted into the prostate with guidance from ultrasound and X-rays. These seeds are so small that patients do not feel them. The radiation from the seeds kills the cancer cells over a period of a few months. How long the seeds remain radioactive depends on the radioactive material used and its dose. The seeds can safely remain in the prostate for the rest of a person’s life. The radioactive isotopes used are iodine or palladium.

Seed implant therapy is not new; the technique has actually been around for decades. However, recent advances in imaging technology have made it possible to view the prostate more effectively and place each seed more precisely.

Seed implant brachytherapy is considered minor surgery as it mostly uses local or regional anesthesia (although sometimes general anesthesia is used). It is usually a one-day, outpatient procedure, with little disruption of normal work or other activities and a short recovery time. Patients are recommended to avoid being close to children and pregnant women for a few weeks. Although the seeds continue to emit radiation for some time, most of the dose is absorbed by the surrounding tissue and very little penetrates the body.

Read more about our innovative prostate brachytherapy treatment here.