Brachytherapy refers to multiple procedures that treat tumors by placing a small source of radioactive material directly into the body. These small sources of radiation can deliver higher total doses of radiation to the treatment area while minimizing damage to surrounding healthy tissue. Brachytherapy is also called internal radiation.
All types of radiation therapy work by damaging the DNA of cancerous cells, destroying their ability to grow and spread. Over time, tumors shrink or die altogether.
Brachytherapy can treat many types of cancer, including:
Brachytherapy is permanent or temporary, and can be used alone or in conjunction with other therapies such as surgery and external beam radiation. In general, brachytherapy is not as lengthy as some types of external beam radiation therapies.
Temporary brachytherapy: Radioactive material is placed into a thin tube, catheter, needle, or other type of applicator and inserted into the body for a set amount of time. After that time, the material is removed. Temporary brachytherapy may be administered at a Low Dose Rate (LDR) or High Dose Rate (HDR) depending on the size and type of tumor.
Permanent brachytherapy: Permanent brachytherapy, also known as seed implantation, places several radioactive ‘seeds’ into a tumor and leaves them there. These seeds are usually metallic and about the size of a grain of rice. The radioactivity of the seeds quickly diminishes. The inert seeds remain in the body with no adverse effects to the patient.
Your Radiation Oncologist Works With a Specialized Team to:
One of the greatest advantages of brachytherapy is that it works from the inside out. During external beam radiation therapy, beams of radiation must pass through normal tissue before reaching the tumor. While this exposure is minimal, brachytherapy further minimizes this additional exposure and concentrates the greatest dose where it is needed.
There are several ways that brachytherapy may be performed on a patient. The exact method used will depend on the specific treatment.
Your doctor will place the source of radiation into your body in one of two ways depending on the location of the tumor.
Intracavity brachytherapy: The radiation source is placed into a body opening such as a windpipe either manually or remotely by a computer-controlled machine.
Interstitial brachytherapy: The source of radiation is placed directly into the body tissue such as a breast or prostate. Specialized applicators, needles, catheters, and other devices may be used to place the radiation.
Radiation can be given as High Dose Rate (HDR), Low Dose Rate (LDR), or as a permanent placement.
What to Expect During High Dose Rate Brachytherapy:
What to Expect During Permanent Brachytherapy:
Depending on the strength of the radiation, you may or may not have restrictions on contact with others.
Every patient is different. At Blue Ridge Radiation Oncology, our doctors tailor every treatment plan to each individual to ensure that you are getting the best quality care.
The side effects of brachytherapy are generally limited to the area which is being treated. Many patients experience tenderness, irritation, and swelling in the treatment area.
Short-Term Side Effects on the Skin:
Late-Term Side Effects on the Skin:
Common Side Effects in the Breast:
Short-Term Side Effects in the Pelvic Area:
Late-Term Side Effects in the Pelvic Region:
Your doctor will advise you of side effects specific for your treatment.