Brachytherapy is a form of radiation therapy where a radioactive source is placed in or just next to a tumor or body site, which is suspected to be cancerous. The traditional external beam radiation therapy is delivered through a linear accelerator at some distance from the tumor, outside the body of a person.
Depending on the type of cancer the radioactive source is left in place either temporarily or permanently. For this purpose special catheters or applicators are used to position the source of radiation accurately. Treatments vary in duration and number according to the area being treated.
Brachytherapy is of two types intracavitary treatment and interstitial treatment. In the former, the radioactive source is often inserted into a particular space near the tumor's location, for example the cervix, the vagina, the windpipe or the esophagus. In the latter the radioactive material is directly implanted into the tissues, such as the prostate.
However the procedure may require anesthesia in addition to brief hospital admission. People undergoing permanent implants usually have very few restrictions. They often return to their normal activities in a short time. Temporary implants can be left inside the person's body for several minutes, hours, or days.
The person who receives the brachytherapy must take precautions however, especially when around children or pregnant women.
The high-dose-rate afterloading machine allows radiation oncologists to complete brachytherapy quickly, in about 10 to 20 minutes. A single, potent radioactive source is often sent through one or more catheters to the tumor for a particular amount of time. In contrast low-dose-rate afterloading requires at least an overnight hospital stay ifor the required dose of radiation therapy to be administered.
In addition most people experience very little discomfort during brachytherapy.Although, there is an initial soreness from an interstitial implant there are medications, which the radiation oncologist can prescribe to ease the discomfort. Brachytherapy has been found to be a sophisticated and highly effective tool at controlling and even curing cancer.