Brachytherapy, also known as internal radiation, is the application of a radiation source directly in and around a cancerous tumor. Brachytherapy is an effective treatment tool for cervical, prostate, breast, and skin cancer and can also be used in many other tumor types. This technique allows the delivery of a highly concentrated and locally confined dose of radiation. This type of radiation helps kill cancer cells, while sparing surrounding organs from excessive radiation. Brachytherapy may be used alone, or with external beam radiation or hormone therapy, depending on the stage of the cancer.
Brachytherapy radiation sources can be placed either temporarily or permanently. Temporary brachytherapy involves placement of radiation sources for a set duration (usually a number of minutes or hours) before being withdrawn. The specific treatment duration will depend on many different factors. Your doctor can review this information with you prior to treatment.
Before treatment starts, you will meet with your physician to talk about your health and medical history, have a complete physical exam, and have tests to take pictures of where the cancer is precisely located. Your physician will review with you how brachytherapy can help you and what side effects you can except from brachytherapy. These side effects will vary depending on where the radiation is placed.
Questions to ask your doctor:
- How can brachytherapy help me?
- What type of brachytherapy do you recommend?
- What side effects should I expect? How will these side effects be lowered or managed?
- How often, and for how long, will I receive treatment?
- What changes might I have after treatment? How long will these changes last?