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Radioactive phosphorus therapy

Radioactive phosphorus (P-32) is a type of internal radiotherapy and is a treatment for some blood disorders.

What radioactive phosphorus is

Radioactive phosphorus is known as P-32. It is a radioactive form of sodium phosphate. It is a treatment for some blood disorders, including one called polycythaemia vera (PV). Polycythaemia vera means that your bone marrow makes too many red blood cells. You might make too many platelets and white blood cells too.

Radioactive phosphorus is absorbed by the bone marrow and gives a dose of radiation, which stops it making too many cells. Very little radiation is given to the rest of the body.

This treatment is not commonly used because other types of treatment are available. You might have it if you have had PV for some time.

How you have radioactive phosphorus

You have radioactive phosphorus as an injection into your bloodstream through a small tube put into your vein (cannula).

You have the treatment in the outpatient department. You can go home straight afterwards.

Possible side effects of radioactive phosphorus

There aren't usually any side effects. 

Some people feel a bit sick but this is uncommon. 

After the injection you are temporarily mildly radioactive but this doesn't harm you. It isn't a risk to anyone else because it is such a small dose and the radioactivity has such a short range.

Treatment with radioactive phosphorus over many years can cause a small increase in the risk of leukaemia. Your doctor or nurse will discuss this with you.

Safety precautions for radioactive phosphorus

Small amounts of the radioactive phosphorus are present in your urine for a day or so after the treatment. For the rest of the day it is important to remember to flush the toilet twice and to wash your hands thoroughly. This makes sure that other people don't come into contact with the radiation. 

If you use incontinence pads or have a catheter bag your nurse will discuss with you how to manage and dispose of these.

Information and help

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