What is Brachytherapy – Basics and Tips

Brachytherapy is one of the most common treatments for cancer. It involves placing high-powered radiation into the body. Otherwise known as internal radiation, brachytherapy allows doctors to deliver high doses of radiation to very specific areas of the body. In other words, doctors can deliver the radiation more accurately to the areas that specifically need it. The treatment time for brachytherapy is less than that of external radiation delivery methods.

This type of treatment is used for several different types of cancer and can be used in conjunction with other cancer treatments, including external radiation treatments. Forms of cancer that can be treated with brachytherapy are:

· Cervical cancer
· Breast cancer
· Vaginal cancer
· Prostate cancer
Gall bladder cancer
Head and neck cancer
· Eye cancer
Endometrial cancer
· Lung cancer
· Ovarian cancer

Side Effects

Side effects of brachytherapy are actually limited to the area that is being treated. Patients can experience swelling and tenderness in the area where the radiation has been delivered. Otherwise, depending upon the amount of radiation delivered and the type of cancer being treated, other side effects may be experienced. Ask your physician what other types of side effects you may experience with your particular treatment.

Treatment Time

High dosage brachytherapy is usually preformed as an outpatient treatment service. This means that you will get to go home after the procedure is done. During this type of treatment, the total time that it will take ranges from just a few minutes to approximately 20 minutes.

Low dosage brachytherapy releases radiation over a period of time. You may be admitted into the hospital for this treatment as sometimes it can take several days to finish the treatment; however, it may only take several hours, but you will still stay in the hospital.

The radiation can either be inserted into a cavity or into body tissue. Intracavity treatment is delivered through a tube that is placed into the body cavity through an opening such as the windpipe or vagina. With tissue treatment, a tiny device is inserted into the tissue. These devices are similar to a balloon, wires, and small seeds that resemble grains of rice.

At the End

After you have received your brachytherapy treatment, your physician will perform a test to see how well the treatment has worked for you. This is usually done with some sort of a scan. The type of scan a physician will order depends on the treatment, the type of cancer, and the area being treated.

Permanent brachytherapy can be ordered. Prostate cancer is an example of a cancer for which doctors will order permanent brachytherapy. Radioactive material is placed in the body permanently with this form of the treatment. Radiation is released slowly, over a period of time. Because of this, sometimes there are restrictions placed on the patient regarding who they are allowed to be around. Over time, the radiation will diminish and the restrictions can be lifted.