Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Font Size

Study: Radioactive Seeds Beat Out Other Prostate Cancer Treatments

Brachytherapy May Have Fewer Side Effects, Is Cheaper Than Surgery, External Radiation Therapy
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Jan. 31, 2012 -- For most men with prostate cancer, having radioactive seeds implanted in the prostate is associated with fewer serious side effects than either surgery to remove the prostate or having a beam of high-energy radiation aimed directly at the cancer, researchers say.

The analysis of the Medicare records of more than 100,000 prostate cancer patients also shows that treatment with radioactive seeds, called brachytherapy, is cheaper than surgery or external beam radiation therapy (EBRT).

Studies have shown that all three treatments are "pretty much equally effective" for treating the 80% of prostate cancer patients diagnosed with low- and intermediate-risk disease, says researcher Jay Ciezki, MD, a radiation oncologist at the Cleveland Clinic.

"So it comes down to quality of life and cost. Based on our analysis, we have to conclude that brachytherapy is the optimal treatment choice," he tells WebMD.

An expert not involved with the work says the new study would not influence his choice of treatment for his patients, however.

Ciezki presented the findings at a news briefing in advance of the fourth annual Genitourinary Cancers Symposium, being held later this week in San Francisco.

Radiation Therapy Has Most Side Effects

Prostate cancer is expected to be diagnosed in more than 240,000 men in the United States in 2012, according to the American Cancer Society.

Ciezki and colleagues analyzed data on 137,427 men from National Cancer Institute Medicare data collected between 1991 and 2007.

Of the total, 43% of men were treated with surgery (called prostatectomy), 44% with external beam radiation therapy, and about 13% with brachytherapy. Researchers looked only at side effects that required a procedure to correct them.

Over a six-year period, on average, 8.8% who had external beam radiation therapy, 6.9% of patients who underwent surgery, and 3.7% who had brachytherapy needed a procedure to fix a therapy-related effect.

A total of 7.1% of patients who received external beam radiation therapy experienced problems such as incontinence or bladder bleeding, compared with 6.7% of those treated with prostatectomy and 3.4% of those treated with brachytherapy.

And 1.7% of EBRT patients had gastrointestinal side effects such as rectal bleeding, compared with 0.1% of prostatectomy patients and 0.3% of brachytherapy patients.

Brachytherapy was the cheapest treatment: $2,557.36 per year. Prostatectomy was slightly more expensive, at $3,205.71, followed by EBRT at $6,412.29.

Today on WebMD

man with doctor
Symptoms, risks, treatments
man coughing
Men shouldn’t ignore
prostate cancer cells
What does this diagnosis mean?
doctor and male patient
Is it worth it?
cancer fighting foods
15 Cancer Symptoms Men Ignore
Prostate Enlarged
Picture Of The Prostate
Prostate Cancer Quiz
screening tests for men
Prostate Cancer Symptoms
Vitamin D