Safety issues to your spouse after brachytherapy for prostate cancer

Richard Whittington, MD
Last Modified: June 16, 2002

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Question

Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"
I've had brachytherapy 2 weeks ago with I 125. My wife is a non-Hodgkin's lymphoma survivor for 10 yrs. She is extremely concerned that I will trigger her lymphoma. My reassurances that the seeds only radiate a few millimeters out and will not be of any consequence to her fall on deaf ears. The risks have been told to me by my radiologist and they are almost nil but she will not believe what I relate and I need some help with specifics.  

Answer

Richard Whittington, MD, Associate Professor of Radiation Oncology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, responds:

Talk to the doctor that did the implant and they should be able to measure the amount of radiation at the skin and compare it to everyday events. We usually find that the initial dose at skin is less than 0.2 mrem/hour, which means that 250 hours is less than a chest x-ray, and the rate falls rapidly. There is no evidence that this radiation will reactivate a lymphoma, and by 4 weeks after the implant, we find the dose rate at skin is no different from 'background' radiation present in everyday life.