Iridium Radiotherapy Treatment
What is Iridium
Iridium is a radioactive material, which is in the
form of lengths of wire. These will
be placed into the area of treatment, below the skin so that the radiation is
concentrated where the treatment is most needed.
To get the iridium in the correct position, hollow
plastic tubes are first put into place and then the wire is inserted into the
The treatment can take from two to seven days,
depending on the dose prescribed by the doctor.
What does the
treatment involve ?
The room where you will be receiving your radiotherapy is on ward A5. It has been specially designed for the treatment that you are going to have. The doors have been lead lined for the safety of you and others. Your room will contain a television, call bell and personal bathroom.
We do recommend that you bring books and magazines to
read as you may feel isolated when your treatment commences.
When arriving on the ward, please report to the nurses station where you will be shown to your room. A nurse will conduct an admission questionnaire to obtain information about you and your lifestyle and answer any questions you may want to ask.
Food and drinks are served throughout the day.
However; the nurses will be more than happy to make you additional drinks
should you require. Please use the call bell or internal telephone in your room.
Dial 2312 or 2312 to get through to the nurses station.
You will not be allowed to eat or drink from midnight
on the day of the anaesthetic.
Pre Operative Care:
If you have not been seen by the doctors in the pre admission clinic then you will be seen on the ward, where you will have bloods taken and maybe an X-ray or ECG performed, if required.
On the morning of the operation you will be assisted by a nurse to get ready for theatre. You will be taken to theatre on your bed. A staff member will accompany you and introduce you to the theatre staff who will look after you until you go into the operating room.
Hollow plastic tubing will be inserted into the
treatment area under general anaesthetic.
In the operating theatre, the tubes are inserted below the skin and
held in place either end with small plastic beads and lead washers, to stop the
tubes from moving or coming out. A
dressing will be placed over the area.
After the procedure has been completed you will be
collected by a nurse from A5 who will bring you back to the ward and make sure
that you are as comfortable as possible. They
will do some standard checks at this time.
Appropriate medication will be administered to
relieve any discomfort if required.
You may eat and drink as you feel able.
Around midday, you will be taken to the radiotherapy
department to have x-rays taken to check the positions of the tubes.
To do this, non-radioactive 'dummy' wire is inserted into the tubes,
which will show up on x-ray. Once the films have been taken, the dummy wires will be
removed and you will return to the ward.
Commencement of Treatment:
The radioactive wires will be inserted by the doctor either later that afternoon or on the following day. Once the radioactive wires are in place, you will be kept in isolation in your own side room. Visitors will be restricted and will have to follow some radiation safety guidelines whilst in the room (see section 3).
Nursing staff will check on you and your treatment
every four hours to make sure that the radioactive wires remain in the correct
position and that you are comfortable. If
you yourself notice that any of the wires come loose or fall out, inform the
nurses as soon as possible so that they can be put back into position.
DO NOT TOUCH OR PICK UP THE WIRES.
You may contact the nurses at any time using the call button and
The treatment is not painful and you will be able to
read, watch TV and eat and drink normally during the treatment.
On the second or third day you will be told exactly
how long your treatment will last. This
cannot be known prior to starting the treatment, as it requires calculations
using the x-ray pictures.
We do advise you to do deep breathing and foot and
leg exercises to prevent the risk of complications whilst on bed rest.
Completion of Treatment:
When the treatment is complete, a doctor will remove the radioactive sources and tubing.
You may go home once the treatment has finished.
You will NOT be radioactive and it
is safe for you to be with family and friends.
Once treatment is complete a letter will be sent to your GP regarding the treatment you have received. Any medication needed will be given to you and an outpatients appointment arranged and posted to your address at a later date.
Because your treatment involves radioactive material,
we request that a few simple radiation safety precautions should be taken during
the time that the wires are in place. If these simple rules are followed, the radiation does not
pose a risk to visitors:
must report to the nurse in charge of the ward prior to entering the room and
when they leave
spent by each visitor with you should not normally exceed thirty
minutes per day
must sit behind the lead shields provided in the room
women and persons under 18 years of age must not enter the room
If there is any reason that your visitors will
have difficulty complying with these rules, please ask to speak to the Radiation
Protection Supervisor, who will be happy to discuss them with you.
4. Potential Side Effects
This is a localised form of radiotherapy and side
effects therefore only related to the area that receives treatment. There are
two types of side effects; those which come on during or immediately after
treatment and resolve acute (early)
effects and those which can be long term late
(delayed) effects. These can
come on within weeks or even years after treatment and are permanent.
Your oncologist will have taken these into account when considering the
benefits of treatment and will inform you of those you are likely to get. Please
discuss any concerns with your doctor, specialist nurse or radiographer at the
time of consent or at any time during radiotherapy. The more common side effects
will now be described but this does not mean you will definitely get them and it
is also possible you may experience a side effect not mentioned.
4.a Early effects.
Be prepared to be in some discomfort while the wires are in place.
You can expect to have a sore
skin reaction - this will develop within a few days of the insertion - it
normally lasts 2-3 weeks but can be much longer if severe. The skin will look
red and ulcerated. Some creams will
help but it is important not to rub the area.
There is a very small risk of developing a blood clot in the legs when
lying in bed in hospital (thrombosis). You
will be given stockings to minimise this risk.
4.b Late effects
The tissues underneath the skin in the implanted site can become
thickened and less mobile – this is called fibrosis and is a relatively common
side effect of implanted radiotherapy.
The skin around the implanted site can develop prominent red blood
vessels and become thinned. This is
call telangiectasia and indicates the skin is more fragile than elsewhere.
Very rarely the skin can break down and form an ulcer that doesn’t
You can expect a skin reaction in the area treated by the implant.
It may become red and sore (a little like sunburn).
This reaction will start 10 to 14 days after the implant is inserted and
will last for 21 to 28 days. The
skin should remain intact but you should not wet the area until the reaction has
Further general information Your doctors and specialist nurses are in an ideal position to give you relevant information on your disease and treatment as they know your individual circumstances. Cancerbackup has a help line (0808 800 1234) and a prize winning video available in English, Italian, Urdu, Bengali, Gujarati & Hindi explaining Radiotherapy & Chemotherapy. Cancernet.co.uk has over 500 pages describing cancer, its management, practical tips and tool which patients, their carers and their doctors have found helpful during the cancer journey.