Brachytherapy is radiation treatment delivered directly into your body. It is placed as close to the cancer as possible. The radiation is delivered using radioactive isotopes (chemical elements). The isotopes are inside delivery devices such as wires, seeds, or rods. These devices are called implants.
Brachytherapy lets your doctor use a higher total dose of radiation over a shorter time than is possible with external beam therapy. The radiation dose is focused on the cancer cells and does less damage to the nearby normal cells.
Brachytherapy may be done along with external beam therapy to help destroy tumor cells for certain types of cancer.
Brachytherapy is often used in the treatment of the following cancers:
- Breast cancer
How does brachytherapy work?
Brachytherapy can be delivered in 3 ways:
- Intracavitary treatment. Radioactive implants are placed inside body cavities such as the vagina, uterus, or breast.
- Interstitial treatment. Radioactive implants are placed directly into the tumor and may stay in permanently.
- Unsealed internal radiation therapy. A medicine with radioactive materials is injected into a vein or into a body cavity.
Brachytherapy implant placement may be either permanent or temporary:
- Our facilities specialize in temporary High-Dose Rate (HDR)Brachytherapy. In temporary brachytherapy, implants are removed after the treatment has ended. Implants, such as hollow needles, catheters (hollow tubes), or balloons filled with fluid, are inserted into or near the cancer for a period of time, then removed. Either high-dose or low-dose brachytherapy may be used.
Your doctor may use anesthesia during the insertion of implants. This will depend on the size and number of implants, as well as the location of the insertion site.
Generally, when you have brachytherapy, you will be treated on an outpatient basis.
How long does the radiation last?
How long the radiation lasts will depend on the type of treatment given. Your doctor will determine the brachytherapy type based on the type of cancer you have, the location of the cancer, and other considerations. HDR implants are in place for 20-30 minutes, and treatment is completed in only a few minutes. Once treatment is completed, any implanted devices will be removed and the patient will be discharged to home. It is important to remember that you will NOT be radioactive or a danger to your family or friends. For HDR treatments, your exposure to radiation will only occur within the department in a specialized treatment room.