Brachytherapy treatment procedure is a kind of radiotherapy that uses sealed radiation source near the place that requires treatment. A high radiation dose is given to the tumour without harming the surrounding healthy tissues. Effective Brachytherapy treatment is used for prostrate, skin, cervical and breast cancer. The therapy is either used alone or in combination with other therapies.

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Brachytherapy, also called internal radiation, is used to treat cancer by placing a radioactive material inside your body. The procedure allows doctors to treat cancerous cells by directing higher doses of radiation to specific or targeted areas of the body.

Compared to external beam radiation, Brachytherapy causes fewer side effects and the treatment time is much shorter. Brachytehrapy helps to treat different types of cancers that include bile duct cancer, cervical cancer, breast cancer, pancreatic cancer, eye cancer, Esophageal cancer, soft tissues cancers, tectal cancer, vaginal cancer, head and neck cancer, and so on.

The procedure may be used as a solo treatment or can be used in combination with other cancer treatments. Although, there are fewer side effects of Brachytherapy, the effects are limited only to the specific areas where the treatment is done. There are two major types of Brachytherapy that include low dose rate (LDR) treatment and a high dose rate (HDR) treatment.

LDR brachytherapy uses small radioactive seeds by placing them in or near the tumour. The seeds stay in its place permanently and releases radiation over several week or even months. The technique is prominently used for treating localised prostate cancer. On the other, HDR brachytherapy follows a different pathway. The radioactive sources placed in the body are removed during each session. The radiation sources help deliver short-lived but intense dose of radiation. This type of treatment is used for treating localised and high-risk gynaecological cancers and prostrate cancers, among others.

Want to know how you get ready before brachytherapy treatment ? Read on

  • Before your brachytherapy treatment, you will have to visit your doctor and discuss about your health conditions. Tell him about the types of medications you are taking so that doctor may know what to suggest and which medications to stop before the procedure begins. If you have any health concern, it is best treated before the treatment with specific medicines.
  • You may have to undergo scans, X-rays, computerized tomography, etc to assess the condition of the cancer, how far it has spread and whether an LDR or HDR brachytherapy is right for you.
  • After admission to the hospital before the surgery, you are asked to sign a consent letter agreeing to the treatment. Your radiation oncologist determines the total number of catheters that are required for the treatment.
  • After you are taken to the operation table, the doctors place radioactive materials in the body, depending upon the location, overall health, extent of the cancer and the treatment goals.
  • Placement of radioactive material is done inside the body or into your body tissues. In intracavity radiation, the material is placed in your body cavity, like the uterus and the rectum. On the other hand, interstitial radiation implants the material near the tumour, not in any cavity.
  • The implants are stored in containers before the procedure in order to confine the radiation to it. Health professionals wear special type of gears while taking the implants from the containers so that the radiations do not escape from them.
  • During the implant procedure, you will get either general or local anaesthesia after which you go into deep sleep. The surgeons use one or more implants to place into your body cavity or in the tissue. A plastic tube or a metal tube catheter is used for putting the implants. The doctors take help of ultrasounds, X-rays, CT scans and MRI to assess where the implants need to be placed.
  • In case of LDR brachytherapy, the implants are left in the body for 1 or a few days after which they are removed. During this period, you will have to stay at the hospital. For large implants, you will need to lie down still on the bed to prevent the implant from moving, while for small implants, which are of the size of seeds, are never removed from the body. Patients with small implants are usually released on the same day.
  • On the other, HDR brachytherapy is performed with powerful radioactive source which is placed in the applicator. After the patient is administered anaesthesia, an applicator is used to place the implants in the body cavity or in the tissues. The position of the applicator may be changed after several minutes and this procedure is repeated over a few days or weeks.

Brachytherapy is usually performed as an outpatient procedure, so the patient is released on the same day. Although, you may not suffer any serious discomfort or pain, you may notice soreness at the operation sites after a few days. Use pain relievers or antibiotics as prescribed by your doctor.

Refrain from strenuous activities for at least two days, and return to work only when it is advised by your doctor. Abstain from sex for a minimum of two weeks after the procedure. It can, therefore, be said that the recovery of brachytherapy is short and quick, letting you to get back to your daily routine in a few days.