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.

This type of internal radiation therapy is given either as temporary brachytherapy or permanent brachytherapy. Temporary brachytherapy is administered within a small session and provides a high dose of concentrated radiation. Permanent brachytherapy implants the radiation devices permanently, allowing them to emit continuous doses of low-dose radiation to the target area.

Because brachytherapy is administered through different focused methods, you will first undergo a variety of scans and procedures to help determine how doctors will best treat your specific situation. These possible tests include CT, PET and MRI scans. The tests are the first step your team of oncologists and caregivers take in constructing your personalized treatment plan.

Once you’ve undergone your scans and the location of 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.

  • 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.

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 strenuous activities for the first few weeks after brachytherapy. These activities include sexual relations, bike riding, and heavy lifting. You should also avoid having children or pets sit on your lap for the first two weeks after the procedure.

Sometimes, cancerous tissues and tumors are too close to vital organs to risk treating with conventional or external radiation therapy. But with brachytherapy, doctors are able to accurately target the tumor while minimizing exposure and sparing vital adjacent organs.

Still, some complications are possible during your sessions. Reactions to radiation include dryness or itching of the skin over the target, soreness, swelling, tenderness, nausea and infection at the injection site.