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Multi-Catheter Internal Radiation: What to Expect

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Planning for multi-catheter internal radiation involves meeting with your radiation oncologist and possibly having X-rays or other tests done to plan exactly where the radiation will be delivered.

After the planning is complete, a member of your radiation team will place small tubes, called catheters, under the skin in the area where the cancer was and will sew the tubes into place. The ends of the catheters will stick out through small holes in the skin. Small stitches hold the catheters in place.

If low-dose radiation is used, the treatment can be delivered over many hours or a few days. You have to stay in the hospital throughout the treatment because there will be radioactivity inside you. During the treatment, either a person or a machine will place small pieces of radioactive material, called seeds, into the catheters. The radioactive seeds slowly deliver the radiation to the tissues surrounding the catheters. Special precautions are taken to keep you and those around you safe from the radiation. Once the treatment is complete, the radioactive seeds, stitches, and catheters are removed. Then you can go home.

If high-dose radioactive seeds are used, you will likely have two treatments a day for 1 week (5 days). Each treatment will last about an hour and you will be able to leave the hospital after each one. During each treatment, a machine places radioactive seeds in the catheters. The seeds will be left in for up to 10 minutes. The seeds are then removed and you are free to leave the treatment center. You do not remain radioactive after the seeds are removed. Once the course of treatment is done, the catheters are removed.

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