Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"
My father-in-law has just gone through "seeding" for prostate cancer. Yesterday when he had this done, the doctor told him not to be around children for 30 days due to the radiation. Can you explain to me why? Is there something harmful that will happen to my child or him?
Carolyn Vachani RN, MSN, AOCN, OncoLink's Nurse Educator, responds:
Brachytherapy is the use of a source of radiation, implanted in or near the tumor, to administer radiation to the tumor. Typically, this means the patient is going home with the radiation implanted and some precautions may be necessary, depending on the type of implant and the type of radiation used.
With regards to "seeds" used for prostate cancer, the guidelines are slightly different at every institution, but here are the basics. The implanted seeds are radioactive, giving off low energy x-rays. They are designed so that the amount of radiation is just enough to treat the prostate tissue. The patient is not radioactive, and nothing he touches will become radioactive. Also his urine, stool, and semen are not radioactive. It is recommend that these men wear a condom when having sex for at least the first 2 weeks because of the potential risk of a seed being expelled (this risk is very low).
As for other people being around the patients, this too is safe, with 2 notable exceptions. Pregnant women and kids under the age of 3 may be more sensitive to the radiation. We recommend children under the age of 3 not sit in patients' laps for the first 2 months, but they can be around them with no other restrictions. We are a bit more stringent with pregnant women; we tell them to not hug the man, try to keep a 2-3 foot distance, and limit the time around a pregnant woman. This is probably more a precaution than an actual knowledge of anything happening.