Brachytherapy

Sometimes radiation is placed inside the body to get the source of the radiation as close to the tumor as possible. This type of radiation is called brachytherapy. Brachytherapy can be done alone or in combination with external radiation therapy. Usually, the radiation source is placed inside the body for short periods of time and then taken out. Your radiation oncologist will discuss with you whether brachytherapy will be used on its own or together with standard radiation therapy from outside the body to treat your type of cancer.

High-dose-rate (HDR) brachytherapy involves the remote placement of the powerful radiation source, accurately directed by your radiation oncologist and team, into the tumor for several minutes through a tube called a catheter. It is usually given in multiple doses once or twice daily or once or twice weekly. Your doctor and team will control this treatment from outside the treatment room, monitoring you as the therapy is being given. Devices called high-dose-rate remote afterloading machines allow radiation oncologists to deliver a brachytherapy treatment quickly. You will be able to go home shortly after the procedure.

Most patients feel little discomfort during brachytherapy. If the radioactive source is held in place with an applicator, you may feel discomfort from the applicator. There are medications that can relieve this discomfort. If you feel weak or queasy from the anesthesia, ask your radiation oncologist for medication to make you feel better.

Brachytherapy may be used alone or in conjunction with external radiation treatments. Your radiation oncologist will advise you of the sequencing of these treatments that is appropriate for you.

We are proud to offer our patients brachytherapy to the following sites:

Breast

The present standard of care for the treatment of early-stage breast cancer is a lumpectomy followed by several weeks of whole breast radiation. However, ongoing research suggests that it is safe to give radiation treatment to only part of the breast, which would allow the radiation to be delivered over a shorter period of time. We are pleased to offer accelerated partial breast irradiation (or APBI)—where radiation is delivered to only part of the breast over four to five days—works as well as the present standard whole breast radiation. Because APBI is still being studied, it is used more selectively than whole breast radiation.

Gynecological Malignancies

In cancers of the uterus and cervix, brachytherapy is a very important part of treatment, and it is common for this type of radiation to be used. Other names for this type of treatment besides brachytherapy include internal radiation therapy and intracavitary radiotherapy. Historically, this would require admission to the hospital and prolonged periods of device insertion. With high-dose rate therapy at Lawrence Cancer Center the device is placed inside the body for short periods of time and then taken out after treatment is given.

Skin

Skin electronic brachytherapy utilizes a unique, miniaturized isotope-free x-ray source to deliver targeted radiotherapy directly to the lesion. The simple outpatient treatment regimen is prescribed based on tumor size, type, depth, and other criteria. During the treatment, a small surface applicator is placed on the treatment site. The x-ray source is then placed in the surface applicator to deliver radiation therapy directly to the lesion. At the completion of the treatment, the x-ray source is turned on and the applicator is removed. The patient is able to immediately return to normal daily activities. e treatment is non-invasive and painless. The low energy source oers fast dose fall-off, minimizing radiation exposure to normal healthy tissue