What is the Brachytherapy?
Brachytherapy is also known as internal radiotherapy which is used to treat various types of cancers. In this form of radiotherapy, a radioactive material is implanted inside your body as close to the cancer as possible. In Brachytherapy your doctor can use higher doses of radiation to more specific areas of the body. Your doctor may recommend you for Brachytherapy alone or may combine it with other form of cancer treatment.
There are three types of brachytherapy,
- Low-dose rate (LDR) brachytherapy: LDR implants emit low doses of radiation released over time — from several hours to several days. Your treating doctor will remove the implant post treatment. Low-dose rate brachytherapy requires hospital stay.
- High-dose rate (HDR) brachytherapy: HDR brachytherapy is often performed on an out-patient basis. The HDR implant delivers high doses of radiation for approximately 10 to 20 minutes. Your doctor later removes the implant. Treatment times vary and there may be one or two sessions a day over a number of days or weeks. Once radioactive material is removed, you can get back to your daily routine.
- Permanent brachytherapy: In this type, radioactive implant emits radiation until there’s no radiation left in it. These implant are about the size of a grain of rice and remains in your body. This treatment is also known as seed implantation. During permanent brachytherapy, you might have to follow certain restrictions while visiting someone or distance may need to be maintained. Once the treatment is over, restriction will be removed.
Why is it done?
Brachytherapy is commonly used to treat various cancers such as:
- Brain cancer
- Bile duct cancer
- Breast cancer
- Cervical cancer
- Dermatological cancer
- Endometrium cancer
- Esophageal Cancer
- Lung cancer
- Prostate cancer
- Rectal cancer
- Soft Tissue cancer
- Vaginal cancer
What happens during the procedure?
Brachytherapy involves the use of radioactive sources that are either implanted into the tumour (interstitial brachytherapy) or placed near it, generally in a body cavity (intracavity brachytherapy).
In interstitial brachytherapy, devices containing radioactive material is placed within your body tissues. Breast and Prostate cancer can be treated with this approach. Device used can be wires, balloons and tiny seeds. In intracavity brachytherapy, device containing the radioactive is placed in a body opening. Uterine and cervical cancer are often treated with this. The device are usually a tube or cylinder specifically made to fit the specific body opening.
How long will it take?
Each session of brachytherapy takes approximately 30 minutes or more, depending on the type of therapy and extent of cancer that needs to be treated.
What happens after the procedure?
Once the radioactive material is removed, you can go home as you won’t give off radiation or be radioactive. You need to be accompanied by someone.
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How will I be benefitted by this?
Brachytherapy helps in reducing the chance for survival of cancer cells which usually gets divided or grows in intervals, between radiotherapy doses. The course of brachytherapy are completed in less time as compared to other radiotherapy techniques. Also, brachytherapy is often associated with fewer side effects. In HDR (High-dose rate) brachytherapy the radioactive source is placed directly inside or close to the site of the tumour. This reduces the risk of damaging the surrounding healthy tissue, while providing a very high dose of localized radiation to the tumour cells.
How to prepare for brachytherapy?
Your doctor may advise you to undergo the following pre-procedure preparations:
- Blood test
- Pre-treatment ultrasound, CT scan or MRI
- Chest X- rays
How much time it will take to recover?
Most of the patients return to their normal activities in few hours to days after brachytherapy.
Do I require anaesthesia?
General anaesthesia may be required while implants are inserted in the body or mild sedation may be required in some cases.
UPDATED ON 15/11/2023