Brachytherapy is the placement of radioactive sources in or just next to a patient’s tumor. During brachytherapy, the radioactive sources may be left in place permanently or only temporarily, depending upon the type of cancer.
There are two main types of brachytherapy:
- Intracavitary treatment
- Interstitial treatment
With intracavitary treatment, the radioactive sources are placed near the tumor, such as in the vagina or the bronchial tree.
With interstitial treatment, the radioactive sources are implanted directly into the tissue, such as the prostate.
These procedures may require anesthesia, a surgical procedure and a brief stay in the hospital. Patients with permanent implants may have a few restrictions at first but can quickly return to their normal activities.
Temporary implants are left inside the body for minutes, hours or days. While the radioactive sources are in place, the patient will stay in a private room for a limited period of time.
High Dose Rate (HDR)
HDR is a term meaning High Dose Rate. It is a type of brachytherapy that uses a high dose source that is only placed in or near cancers temporarily in a highly controlled manner under strict supervision. It finds the most use in gynecologic cancers, sarcomas and less commonly other sites such as esophageal, lung or tumors of the biliary tract. Because the radiation is delivered in high doses, the treatment time is shortened.
Mammosite is a specific type of HDR brachytherapy which specifically is used to treat breast cancer. It utilizes an inflatable balloon temporarily placed in a lumpectomy site at the time of surgery or in some cases, two to three weeks later and then followed by twice daily treatments over five days of just a few minutes a day where only the resected area of the breast is targeted.