Will I be radioactive after radiation therapy?

Author: Courtney Misher, MPH, BS RT(T)
Last Reviewed: March 19, 2021


Will I be radioactive after radiation therapy?


External Radiation

You will not be radioactive if you are receiving external beam radiation. External beam radiation is the most common type of treatment and delivers radiation from a machine outside the body. When you leave the treatment room you are not radioactive and there is no radiation coming from you. This means that you don’t have to worry about close physical contact with loved ones. It is safe to be around other individuals and you can go about your normal routine.

Internal Radiation

This is not the case with certain types of internal radiation therapy (called brachytherapy), where a radiation source is placed inside your body. There are two types of brachytherapy, high-dose-rate (HDR) and low-dose-rate (LDR).

  • For HDR brachytherapy the source (seeds) is placed inside the body for a few minutes and is removed – therefore you are not radioactive after treatment. The tissues in the body do not hold the radiation once the source is removed. You do not need to take any special precautions.
  • For LDR brachytherapy, the radiation source that is placed inside your body is permanent and is not removed. The source remains radioactive for several weeks or months, although the amount of radiation lessens over time. The radiation is being released at low doses and is likely not to cause any risks to other individuals that are around you. However, to error on the side of caution, patients are advised not to come in close contact with pregnant women or children for several weeks to months. You may also be advised to wait two weeks to have sex and men may be advised to wear a condom during sex. If you receive LDR brachytherapy, you will be given specific instructions on what to do to keep those around you safe after treatment.

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