who get radioactive implants to treat prostate cancer may breathe
easier now that a Washington University study has found the treatment
poses virtually no risk of harmful radiation doses to family members.
men have been concerned that the implanted radioactive "seeds" used to
treat prostate cancer could expose spouses and other family members to
harmful radiation, said Dr. Jeff M. Michalski, assistant professor of
radiology at the Washington University School of Medicine.
The study found there are virtually no risks from radiation to family members of men undergoing the treatments.
can now tell a patient that the amount of extra radiation his spouse
will get in one year is less than she would get from living in Denver
for three or four months or taking a round-trip flight from New York to
Tokyo," Michalski said. (Radiation from space is slightly more intense
at higher altitudes.)
Michalski and his
co-authors presented the findings of his study Monday at the 86th
Scientific Assembly and Annual Meeting of the Radiological Society of
North America in Chicago.
In the study, 40
men wore radiation measuring badges for three weeks. Their family
members also wore badges while around the patients. Because patients
occasionally express concern about radiation risk to their pets, the
pet dogs of several patients also wore radiation badges in the study.
the study, one spouse received the amount of extra radiation she would
have received by flying round trip from New York to Tokyo. The a mount
that some family members received was essentially zero, Michalski
About 144,000 men are expected
to be diagnosed this year with prostate cancer confined to the prostate
gland. About 38,000 are expected to choose to be treated with
radioactive seed implants. Another 80,000 are likely to opt for
surgical removal of their prostate - a procedure that has much greater
complication rates, side effects and much longer recovery time,
Michalski said. The remainder of those diagnosed are expected to choose
external radiation treatments.
procedure, called brachytherapy, is done on an outpatient basis and
involves inserting about 100 radioactive "seeds," smaller than rice
grains, in and around the walnut-size prostrate gland.
removal of the prostate, however, usually requires four or five days of
hospitalization and another four to six weeks of recovery.
show that about 78 percent of men treated with brachytherapy are
cancer-free 10 years after treatment - about the same survival rate for
patients treated by surgery. However, there is much less risk for
sexual impotency or urinary incontinence with brachytherapy, Michalski
Two men from the St. Louis area who
were in the study, Loy Ledbetter and Gerald Cohen, said that neither
they nor their family members were concerned about radiation risks from