Side effects of brachytherapy

Radiation therapy is generally associated with side effects. These side effects are well known and most side effects are not dependent on the type of radiation therapy. However, brachytherapy is associated with sparing the surrounding healthy tissue from unnecessary radiation with the potential for fewer side effects than alternatives such as external beam radiotherapy.1-2

People respond to treatments in different ways. Some side effects may appear in the short-term (known as acute side effects) or may appear several months later (long-term side effects).

Short-term (acute) side effects

As with all treatments, you may experience some side effects immediately after the treatment procedure.

After brachytherapy, you may experience some of the following:1

  • Early skin reaction (radiodermatitis)
  • Hematoma
  • Breast pain
  • Infection following the placement of the applicators

These short-term side effects are typically mild in nature and usually resolve soon after treatment.

Long-term side effects

Brachytherapy, as with other treatments, may result in some long-term side effects.

Long-term side effects that sometimes appear after brachytherapy include:2

  • Skin hyperpigmentation
  • Telangiectasia
  • Fibrosis
  • Fat necrosis

Discuss your treatment options and the relative risks of potential side effects with your healthcare professional.

References

  1. Ott O et al. Radiother and Oncol 2016; 120:119-23. Available at: https://www.thegreenjournal.com/article/S0167-8140(16)31179-3/fulltext Accessed June 2021
  2. Polgar C et al. Lancet 2017; 18(2);259-268. Available at: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanonc/article/PIIS1470-2045(17)30011-6/fulltext Accessed June 2021