Cancer Research UK on Google+ Cancer Research UK on Facebook Cancer Research UK on Twitter

Radioactive phosphorus therapy

Nurse and patients talking about cancer

This page tells you about radiotherapy treatment with radioactive phosphorus. There is information about


What radioactive phosphorus is

Radioactive phosphorus is a radioactive form of the element phosphorus. It can be used as a treatment for some blood disorders, including one called polycythaemia rubra vera (PCRV). Polycythaemia rubra vera means that your bone marrow makes too many red blood cells. You may 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 excess 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. It may be used if you have had PCRV for some time.


How you have treatment

You have radioactive phosphorous as an injection in the outpatient department. You can go home straight after the treatment.


Possible side effects

There aren't usually any side effects. After the injection you will be temporarily radioactive but this is not harmful to you. It is not a hazard 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 leukaemia.


More information about radioactive phosphorus

Your medical physicist or radiotherapy doctor (clinical oncologist) will be able to explain the treatment to you in detail if you would like. You can find helpful booklets and leaflets on our thyroid cancer reading list. The thyroid cancer organisations page has other sources of information.

If you want to find people to share experiences with online, you could use CancerChat, our online forum. Or go through My Wavelength. This is a free service that aims to put people with similar medical conditions in touch with each other.

Rate this page:
Submit rating


Rated 4 out of 5 based on 1 votes
Rate this page
Rate this page for no comments box
Please enter feedback to continue submitting
Send feedback
Question about cancer? Contact our information nurse team

No Error

Updated: 3 July 2012