Procedure

Brachytherapy- Cancer/Oncology, Diagnostics

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Doctor: Oncologist

What is brachytherapy?

Brachytherapy is a type of internal radiation therapy during which a radioactive implant is placed inside the body in or near the tumor. The implants may be seeds, pellets, ribbons, wires, needles, capsules, balloons, or tubes.

Brachytherapy is a local treatment and treats only a specific part of your body. It is generally used to treat tumors of the eye, breast, cervix, prostate, head and neck.

The procedure:

As a first step, the implants are placed in the body. Patient may receive general or local anesthesia. Generally, the implant is kept in the place by using a catheter. Sometimes, a larger device called an applicator is used to put the implant inside the body. Before beginning the treatment, a catheter or an applicator is placed inside the body. And after this the radiation implant is placed inside it. There are three different ways to put brachytherapy inside the body:

  • Interstitial brachytherapy: In this case the radiation source is placed within the tumor. This technique is mainly used for prostate cancer.
  • Intracavity brachytherapy: In this case the radiation source is placed within a body cavity or a cavity created by surgery. For instance, radiation is placed in the vagina to treat cervical or endometrial cancer.
  • Episcleral brachytherapy: In this case the radiation source is attached to the eye. This technique is mainly used for the treatment of melanoma of the eye.

Depending on the type of cancer and patient’s condition, the radiation source might be kept in place for a few minutes, for many days, or for the rest of the life.

There are three types of brachytherapy:

  • Low-dose rate (LDR) implants/brachytherapy: In this type of brachytherapy, the radiation source is kept for 1 to 7 days. Patient is required to stay in hospital during the treatment period. After the treatment, catheter or applicator is removed.
  • High-dose rate (HDR) implants/brachytherapy: In this type of brachytherapy, the radiation source is kept for around 10 to 20 minutes at a time and then removed. Depending on the type of cancer, patient may receive treatment twice a day for 2 to 5 days or once a week for 2 to 5 weeks. During the course of treatment, catheter or applicator may stay as it is or it may be kept every time before each treatment. After the treatment, catheter or applicator is removed.
  • Permanent implants: In this case, after the radiation source is kept in the place, the catheter or applicator is removed.  Even though the implants remain in the body for the rest of the life, the radiation gets weaker each day. As time goes on, virtually all the radiation goes away.

Sources:

  • https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/types/radiation-therapy/brachytherapy
  • https://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatments-and-side-effects/treatment-types/radiation/internal-radiation-therapy-brachytherapy.html
About the Author:

Dr. Anand Lakhkar is a physician scientist from India. He completed his basic medical education from India and his postgraduate training in pharmacology from the United States. He has a MS degree in pharmacology from New York Medical College, a MS degree in Cancer/Neuro Pharmacology from Georgetown University and a PhD in Pharmacology from New York Medical College where he was the recipient of the Graduate Faculty Council Award for academic and research excellence.  His research area of expertise is in pulmonary hypertension, traumatic brain injury and cardiovascular pharmacology.  He has multiple publications in international peer-reviewed journals and has presented his research at at prestigious conferences.

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