Brachytherapy

Also known as: Internal Radiation Therapy

When cancerous tumors affect sensitive organs like the prostate and breasts, considering radiation therapy as a treatment can be a daunting process.

Well-versed in the latest in cancer care technology, our doctors are able to use brachytherapy – an advanced radiotherapeutic cancer treatment – to manage your cancer with care and precision.

Brachytherapy is an advanced type of cancer treatment that uses a small source of radiation and implants it inside the patient near cancerous tumors and cancer cells. The radiation source is able to get close to the cancer source and deliver varying doses of radiation, effectively eliminating cancer cells and gradually reducing the size of tumors. With brachytherapy, doctors are able to accurately target the tumor while minimizing exposure and sparing vital adjacent organs.

Depending on the technique, radiation therapy dose from brachytherapy can be delivered with one of two different dose rates – high-dose-rate (HDR) or low-dose-rate (LDR).

LDR brachytherapy, or permanent brachytherapy. releases radiation at a slower rate, allowing the implants to emit continuous doses of low-dose radiation to the target area. 

HDR brachytherapy, or temporary brachytherapy, the radiation dose is deposited at a faster rate inside the body. HDR brachytherapy involves the temporary placement of a tiny, radioactive source near the tumor and provides a high dose of concentrated radiation.

 

Once your tumor has been pinpointed, your team of oncologists will determine if you are better suited for temporary or permanent brachytherapy. Both procedures will require opening an IV line, though they may require different forms of anesthetic, depending on the location of the tumor and radiation dosage. Your doctor and team will control this treatment from outside the treatment room, monitoring you as the therapy is being given. Radiation is usually delivered in multiple doses, once or twice per day, or once or twice per week, for 10 to 30 minutes per treatment.

  • If you have permanent brachytherapy, your doctor will use a needle to implant various tiny seed-like pellets near your cancer. The pellets will emit a low-dose of radiation and eradicate cancer cells, gradually reducing the size of your tumor. Over time, the pellets weaken and stop emitting radiation.
  • If you have temporary brachytherapy, your doctor will use a small application device, like a needle, catheter, or bronchoscope, to inject the radiation emitting pellet. Using fluoroscopic imaging techniques, the pellet is positioned directly beside the tumor and emits high-doses of cancer killing radiation, usually over the course of 10 to 20 minutes. After the session is over, the radiation pellet is removed.

Reactions to radiation include dryness or itching of the skin over the target, soreness, swelling, tenderness, nausea and infection at the injection site.

After brachytherapy, your body will emit low doses of radiation for a short period of time. The risk to others is usually minimal but, in some cases, patients may be asked to limit exposure to pregnant women and children. You should avoid having children or pets sit on your lap for the first two weeks after the procedure.

Most patients feel little discomfort during brachytherapy. There is no residual radioactivity when the treatment is completed. You may be able to go home shortly after the procedure, resuming your normal activities with few restrictions. You should avoid strenuous activities for the first few weeks after brachytherapy. These activities include sexual relations, bike riding, and heavy lifting. 

 

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in men in the United States. New methods of treatment cause fewer side effects than older methods. These treatments have excellent survival rates. Depending on the stage of disease and your general health.

For prostate cancer patients, the implant is placed in or near the tumor. You will be getting high-dose rate brachytherapy (HDR) delivered through a system of catheters (a small, flexible tube). These catheters will be placed in the operating room.

Advantages of HDR:
  • Consistent, high-quality prostate implants through improved dose tailoring and real-time computer planning
  • Better dose coverage improves cure rates and reduces side effects
  • Eliminates LDR radiation seed migration since the HDR implant is temporary
  • Eliminates the need for patients and families to use radiation safety precautions since there are no radioactive seeds
  • Extends eligibility to men with extraprostatic extension (stage T3a) or seminal vesicle invasion (stage T3b), thanks to sophisticated computer planning and flexibility
  • Can eliminate or reduce the need for extended androgen therapy and its subsequent side effects

After breast cancer surgery, radiation treatments help prevent the breast cancer from coming back . A catheter may be placed in the breast for the duration of treatment to allow treatment delivery.

Breast Brachytherapy means placing radiation sources inside next to a cancer, or inside an area that may contain remaining cancer after surgical removal of the tumor. This allows the doctor to target only the part of the breast where the tumor was located rather than the whole breast.

During the HDR procedure, the physician places an applicator or catheters near or in the cancer, in the vagina, cervix, or uterus, which allows a source of radiation to deliver highly focused radiation to target areas while minimizing dose to nearby tissues.

This technique has been shown to maximize cancer control and improve outcomes in appropriate patients.