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Radioactive strontium therapy

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This page tells you about radioactive strontium treatment for cancers that have spread to the bones. There is information about


What radioactive strontium is

Radioactive strontium is a radioactive form of the metal strontium (strontium 89). It has the brand name Metastrom.

Radioactive strontium is sometimes used to treat cancers that have spread to the bones, most commonly prostate cancer. If there are cancer cells in more than one area of bone, radioactive strontium can work well to treat those areas and reduce pain.


How you have radioactive strontium treatment

You have radioactive strontium as an injection into the vein. The injection may need to be repeated every 3 to 6 months. You have the treatment as an outpatient and will be able to go home afterwards. The radioactive strontium is taken up by the cancer cells in the bone and gives a high dose of radiotherapy to these areas.


Possible side effects

There are no immediate side effects from the injection. You will have some radioactivity in your body for a while after this treatment. But the total amount is extremely small and gets lower each day. 

You may have a slight increase in pain in the areas in the areas of cancer in your bone for a few days. Your doctor or nurse can give you advice on adjusting your painkillers if this happens. 

The treatment can sometimes cause anaemia after a few weeks. So you will need to have regular blood tests after the treatment.


Safety precautions

Your radiotherapy doctor (clinical oncologist) or specialist nurse will let you know if there are any safety guidelines you need to follow after your treatment and how long you need to follow them for. This will depend on the dose of strontium you have had.

During the first week after your injection, low levels of radioactive strontium may be present in your blood and urine. So for 1 week you need to follow the guidelines below so that other people are not exposed to the radiation. 

  • To pass urine, men should sit on a toilet if possible, rather than using a urinal
  • Flush toilets twice after use
  • Wipe up any spilled urine with a tissue and flush it away
  • Make sure you always wash your hands after using the toilet
  • Wash any linen or clothes that become stained with urine, straight away
  • Wash the clothes separately from other clothes and rinse them well
  • If you use any product to collect urine, ask your doctor or nurse for advice on using it safely
  • If you cut yourself, wash away the spilt blood down a sink

More information about radioactive strontium

Your medical physicist, radiotherapy doctor, radiographer or nurse can explain the treatment to you in detail if you would like them to.

We have detailed information about internal radiotherapy in this section. You can phone the Cancer Research UK nurses on freephone 0808 800 4040. The lines are open from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. They will be happy to answer any questions that you have.

Our general organisations page gives details of people who can provide information about radiotherapy. Some organisations can put you in touch with a cancer support group. Our cancer and treatments reading list has information about books, leaflets and other resources about radiotherapy treatment.

If you want to find people to share experiences with online, you could use Cancer Chat, our online forum.

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Updated: 30 April 2014