Brachytherapy is also known as internal radiotherapy, it is a form of radiation therapy where a sealed radiation source is placed inside or next to the area requiring treatment. Brachytherapy can be used alone or in combination with other therapies such as surgery, External Bram Radiation Therapy (EBRT) and chemotherapy.
Brachytherapy differs from External Beam Radiation in how the radiation dose is delivered. In the case of EBRT, high-energy radiation is directed at the tumor from outside the body. In this process all of the tissue in the path of the radiation beam receives the prescription dose, this can include healthy tissue. On the other hand. Brachytherapy involves the precise placement of radiation sources directly at the site of the cancerous tumor.
These sources deliver radiation to a very limited area surrounding the source which gives clinicians precise control to limit the radiation to only affected tissue. Healthy tissues, farther away from the source, is spared unnecessary exposure to radiation. This means tumors can be treated with very high doses of radiation while reducing the risk of unnecessary damage to surrounding healthy tissues.
Brachy is the Greek word, “close by”, meaning that a radioactive source is placed within or close to the tumor. Brachytherapy delivers a high amount of radiation to the tumor and very little to the healthy tissue. Brachytherapy allows a higher dose of radiation in a smaller area than might be possible with external radiation treatment.
The radioactive source can be placed in the body using a device called an applicator. There are different applicators for different body sites, (i.e., lung, esophageal, rectal and vaginal applicators). These applicators are typically made of titanium or plastic. Additionally, plastic needles or catheters can be used to place the source in or near the tumor. Depending on the body site, mild sedation or general anesthesia may be used to make you comfortable.
The radioactive source is positioned in the applicator by a machine called an afterloader. The afterloader will position the source for a pre-calculated amount of time and then retract it back into the machine.
The type of implant you receive and your treatment schedule will depend on the kind of cancer, where it is in your body, your general health, and other treatments you have had.
No! With brachytherapy, the radioactive source is removed from your body and therefore you are not radioactive.