Brachytherapy, also known as internal radiotherapy is a kind of radiotherapy treatment. During the brachytherapy,
Brachytherapy, also known as internal radiotherapy is a kind of radiotherapy treatment. During the brachytherapy, a minor source of radiation is sited inside the patient’s body close to the area where treatment is needed.
Brachytherapy has different kinds of benefits for different kinds of medical conditions.Some of the most performed brachytherapy types are:
● Brachytherapy for cervical cancer
● Brachytherapy for breast cancer
● Brachytherapy for prostate cancer
● Brachytherapy for uterine cancer
● Brachytherapy for skin cancer
Brachytherapy can be the only treatment in one's treatment plan, or it can be performed with other kinds of treatment techniques such as chemotherapy, external radiotherapy, or cancer surgery.
Brachytherapy has several benefits which lack in other kinds of radiotherapy or cancer treatments. By performing the brachytherapy practice, doctors can treat only the area which is affected by cancer. Since the brachytherapy technique has fewer side effects than external radiotherapy, there is a shorter time between each radiation dose, which eventually leads to less time for surviving cancer cells to grow. Additionally, brachytherapy has benefits for many different types of cancer, and its success rate is comparable to cancer surgery or external radiotherapy.
For patients who are suffering from listed diseases, brachytherapy is recommended:
● Eye cancer
● Brain cancer
● Breast cancer
● Bile duct cancer
● Cervical cancer
● Endometrial cancer
● Head and neck cancer
● Lung cancer
● Esophageal cancer
● Pancreatic cancer
● Prostate cancer
● Skin cancer
● Rectal cancer
● Vaginal cancer
Brachytherapy procedure can be performed only, or it can be combined with other treatment techniques such as cancer surgery, radiotherapy, or chemotherapy.
For brachytherapy procedure, there might be some contraindications regarding the patient’s age, weight, and lifestyle. However, it is strongly depended on the brachytherapy’s purpose and the area affected by cancer.
Before the brachytherapy, it is necessitated to visit a doctor and a radiation oncologist to get exanimated. After that, oncologists prepare a treatment plan which suits the patient best. Also, before starting the brachytherapy procedure, it might be required for the patient to have X-rays or CTs.
Depending on the type of cancer and the purpose of the treatment, brachytherapy can be performed in different ways. In general, firstly general or local anesthesia is administered to the patient.
Brachytherapy can be performed in several different ways, which involve:
● It can be placed in a body cavity – the implant containing radioactive material can be placed in the windpipe
● It can be inserted into tissue – In this technique, an incision is made in the area in which treatment is aimed, in order to insert the implant into the incision. This method is mostly performed for patients who are suffering from prostate cancer or breast cancer.
There are three different types of brachytherapy, depending on the amount of the treatment length and dose of radiation administered:
● High dose rate brachytherapy
In this method, the radioactive implant is inserted into the patient’s body for a very limited period, which is regularly around 15-20 minutes. Generally, patients experience this procedure a few times every day for up to a week.
● Low dose rate brachytherapy
During this practice, patients need to stay in the hospital.A low dose of radiation is continuously released for a longer period – it ranges from a few hours to a few days.
● Permanent brachytherapy
This technique is mostly performed for patients who are suffering from prostate cancer.In this procedure, the radioactive implant might be inserted into the patient’s body permanently.
Local or General anesthetic
During the recovery period of brachytherapy, depending on the performed technique and the affected area, some patients may experience pain and swelling. Also, as a result of general anesthesia use patients may experience nausea and vomiting as well.
Risks and complications associated with brachytherapy depend on the treated area.
Brachytherapy may cause several side effects that involve tenderness, pain, soreness, nausea, and vomiting.
Brachytherapy success rates differ depending on the area, which is affected by cancer and its spread. For the patients who are suffering from prostate cancer, success rates differ between 71 to 95%, 5 years after the procedure.
For the patients who are having permanent brachytherapy, it is recommended to limit their time spent with children and pregnant women since they emit a low dose of radiation from the treatment area.
– Brachytherapy vs. external beam radiation – What is the difference?
During the brachytherapy, a certain limited area is affected by the implant, which can be managed by the doctor.However, the external beam radiation passes through the patient’s body in which sometimes affects the healthy body parts.
– Is permanent brachytherapy painful?
Not at all - you won’t feel the implant after the incision heals. The implant itself is very small.
– For how long does a permanent brachytherapy implant release radiation?
Depending on cancer’s
This content is written and reviewed by our medical content team in August, 2019.