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Radioactive strontium therapy

Radioactive strontium therapy treats cancers that have spread to the bone. 

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

The radioactive strontium is picked up by the cancer cells in the bone. This is because it is similar to calcium, which is also absorbed by bone cells.

Before treatment

Your doctor will ask you to stop taking any calcium supplements 2 weeks before you start treatment. 

How you have radioactive strontium treatment

You have radioactive strontium as an injection into the vein. It takes a few minutes.

You usually have treatment as an outpatient and can go home straight afterwards.

Possible side effects of radioactive strontium

You have some radioactivity in your body for a while after treatment. But because the amount is extremely small it's safe to go home afterwards. And the radioactivity gets lower each day. 

You might feel slightly more pain 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 a slight drop in the number of red blood cells (anaemia) after a few weeks. So your doctor will arrange for you to have regular blood tests after the treatment.

Safety precautions for radioactive strontium

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.

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:

  • Men should sit on a toilet if possible rather than using a urinal when passing urine.
  • 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.
  • Ask your doctor or nurse for safety advice if you use any product to collect urine.
  • Wash away any blood down a sink if you cut yourself.