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WHAT IS BRACHYTHERAPHY

Brachytherapy is radiation treatment that is given inside the patient, as close to the cancer as possible. The radiation is delivered inside the body with radioactive isotopes (chemical elements), inside delivery devices such as wires, seeds, or rods. These devices are called implants.

Brachytherapy allows for a higher total dose of radiation over a shorter period of time than does external beam therapy. The radiation dose is concentrated on the cancer cells and less damage is done to the normal cells near the cancerous growth.

Brachytherapy may be performed in combination with external beam therapy to help destroy the main mass of tumor cells for certain types of cancer.

Brachytherapy is often used in the treatment of cervical, uterine, vaginal, or rectal cancer, as well as eye and certain head and neck cancers. However, the therapy may also used to treat many other cancers.

Radiation oncologists use several types of Brachytherapy depending upon a patient's condition.

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There are three types of Brachytherapy delivery:

1. Intracavitary treatment - radioactive implants are placed inside body cavities such as the vagina or uterus.
2. Interstitial treatment - radioactive implants are placed directly into the tumor and may stay in the patient permanently.
3. Unsealed internal radiation therapy - a medication containing radioactive materials is injected into a vein or into a body cavity.

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Brachytherapy implant placement may be one of two types:

  • Permanent Brachytherapy
    Also called low dose rate Brachytherapy ; permanent Brachytherapy uses implants called pellets or seeds. These implants are very small, about the size of a grain of rice. The implants are inserted directly into a tumor through thin, hollow needles. The implants are left in place after the radiation has been used up, as their small size causes little or no discomfort.
  • Temporary Brachytherapy
    Temporary Brachytherapy refers to the use of implants that are removed after the treatment has ended. Implants, such as hollow needles, catheters (hollow tubes), or balloons filled with fluid, are inserted into or near the cancer for a period of time, then removed. Either high-dose or low-dose Brachytherapy may be used.

General anesthesia may be used during the insertion of implants, depending on the size and number of implants, as well as the location of the insertion site.
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How Brachytherapy works?

Brachytherapy is a form of radiotherapy in which physicians place the source of irradiation close to the tumor or within a body cavity. Brachytherapy may include placing radioactive sources inside a body cavity (intracavitary Brachytherapy ) such as the vagina, or by putting radioactive material directly into body tissue using hollow needles (interstitial Brachytherapy ). Brachytherapy may be given in addition to external beam radiation, or it may be used as the only form of radiotherapy. In some cases the radioactive sources may be permanently left in place; in other cases, they are removed after a specified time. Placement of radioactive sources may be repeated several times in some situations.

Advantages of Brachytherapy

Experts have found that Brachytherapy allows a higher than normal dose of radiation placed in or adjacent to the tumor. This approach reduces the risk of damage to healthy tissue and increases thlikelihood of destroying the tumor.

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