Low dose rate brachytherapy is a widely used modality for the treatment of prostate cancer. Most clinical treatment planning systems currently in use approximate all tissue to water, neglecting the existence of inhomogeneities, such as calcifications. The presence of prostatic calcifications may perturb the dose due to the higher photoelectric effect cross section in comparison to water. This study quantitatively evaluates the effect of prostatic calcifications on the dosimetric outcome of brachytherapy treatments by means of Monte Carlo simulations and its potential clinical consequences.
Four pathological calcification samples were characterised with micro-particle induced x-ray emission (μ-PIXE) to determine their heavy elemental composition. Calcium, phosphorus and zinc were found to be the predominant heavy elements in the calcification composition. Four clinical patient brachytherapy treatments were modelled using Geant4 based Monte Carlo simulations, in terms of the distribution of brachytherapy seeds and calcifications in the prostate. Dose reductions were observed to be up to 30% locally to the calcification boundary, calcification size dependent. Single large calcifications and closely placed calculi caused local dose reductions of between 30–60%. Individual calculi smaller than 0.5 mm in diameter showed minimal dosimetric impact, however, the effects of small or diffuse calcifications within the prostatic tissue could not be determined using the methods employed in the study. The simulation study showed a varying reduction on common dosimetric parameters. D90 showed a reduction of 2–5%, regardless of calcification surface area and volume. The parameters V100, V150 and V200 were also reduced by as much as 3% and on average by 1%. These reductions were also found to relate to the surface area and volume of calcifications, which may have a significant dosimetric impact on brachytherapy treatment, however, such impacts depend strongly on specific factors in the patient's individual treatment. These factors include the number, size, composition and spatial distribution of calcifications in the prostate as well as the distribution of brachytherapy seeds.