If you or a loved one has recently been diagnosed with cancer, it is important to know and consider the various treatment options available. There is no one-size fits all treatment plan, and different treatment options can affect your life differently. Speak with your healthcare team about all your options, and don’t be afraid to ask for a second opinion.
Brachytherapy (brak-e-THER-uh-pee), sometimes called internal radiation therapy, is a form of radiation therapy used to treat many different types of cancers. It has been proven to be very effective and safe, providing a good alternative to surgical removal of the tumor, while reducing the risk of certain long-term side effects.
It works by placing a radioactive source directly in or next to the cancerous tumor, delivering radiation to kill cancer cells and shrink the tumor. Because brachytherapy delivers radiation precisely to the treatment area, the risk of hurting nearby organs or healthy tissue is reduced. The overall treatment time may be shorter, as a larger dose of radiation can be delivered safely at one time.
Brachytherapy may be done alone or in combination with other cancer treatments depending on the location and severity of the tumor. For example, brachytherapy may be used with external radiation therapy, a form of radiation where high-energy x-ray beams are aimed at the tumor from outside the body. It may also be used following surgery to destroy any remaining cancer cells.
Brachytherapy is used to treat cancers throughout the body, including:
Brachytherapy is performed by a radiation oncologist, a doctor who specializes in treating cancer with radiotherapy.
Connect with a radiation oncologist in your area who is experienced in providing brachytherapy treatment.
Brachytherapy may be temporary or permanent. Your radiation oncologist will determine the treatment approach that is right for you.
With temporary brachytherapy, also known as high-dose-rate brachytherapy (HDR), the radiation oncologist places radioactive material inside a narrow tube that is inserted into the tumor for a specific amount of time and then removed. This procedure is typically done ?? times over the course of ?? days.
Permanent brachytherapy, also known as low-dose-rate brachytherapy (LDR) or seed therapy, involves implanting small radioactive seeds about the size of a grain of rice in or near the tumor using a small needle. These seeds release radiation to the tumor over the course of several months and stay in place once the treatment is complete.
Both approaches involve the use of special imaging equipment such as ultrasound, Computerized Tomography (CT), and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) to ensure the radioactive material is placed in the correct position.
Brachytherapy is typically performed as an outpatient procedure, which means you can go home after the procedure is complete. However, your healthcare team may decide to keep you at the hospital overnight for monitoring. It is important to discuss the procedure and recovery expectations with your doctor ahead of treatment.