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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/Strontium 90). Strontium 89 has the brand name Metastron. It can be an injection, solution or solid.

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 can 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.

It is also used to treat conjunctival melanoma (Cancer of the eye). It is used to cure the cancer and prevent it from coming back. During treatment, Strontium 90 is a metal applicator, like a metal contact. It is held against your eye, focusing on where the cancer is. You have the treatment under a local anaesthetic. The treatment is usually spread over 5 treatments.


Possible side effects

There are no immediate side effects from the injection. You 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 need to have regular blood tests after the treatment.

When treating the eye, there may be a slight swelling in the area.


Safety precautions

Your doctor or specialist nurse 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 depends 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. These include

  • 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

When having treatment to the eye, make sure that you do not get close to young children or pregnant women. This is because you are having a radioactive treatment. Talk this through with your doctor beforehand.


More information about radioactive strontium

Find out about

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Internal radiotherapy safety precautions


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Updated: 30 April 2014