By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
Brachytherapy is a form of localized radiation therapy and is associated with various safety concerns.
Brachytherapy may be given on a permanent or temporary basis. In the case of permanent brachytherapy, “seeds” containing the radioactive substance are placed in the target tissue. Distributing and placing these seeds in a way that delivers exactly the correct amount of radiation can be demanding. The number of seeds administered also needs to account for any residual radiation from seeds remaining after previous therapies.
The source of radioactive material is also a concern. An inventory of radioactive sources must be carefully maintained with usage logs and quarterly surveys. Leakage testing of sealed sources must also be performed on a regular basis and all nursing staff and personnel should be equipped with any necessary radiation shields. In addition, radioactive sources also need to be regularly assayed. Assays are usually carried out at 5-year intervals.
Some examples of the protective procedures carried out in the management of brachytherapy include:
- 1. 2” thick lead safe for Cs-137 temporary sources
- 1-2” thick mobile lead barrier shield for patient rooms
- Storage closet
- Remote handling tongs
- Radiation survey meters (both measurement and detection types)
- Pocket dosimeters or Luxel/Film badges for those who handle the sources
- Disposable trays, food containers, gloves, Chux pads, bed pads and plastic bags
- “Caution Radiation” and “Caution Radioactive Material” signs
Reviewed by Sally Robertson, BSc
Last Updated: Aug 17, 2014