Brachytherapy or Internal Radiation Therapy Technology and Treatment Center


Brachytherapy, or Internal Radiation Therapy, is a form of radiation treatment for cancer wherein a radiation source is placed inside (interstitial brachytherapy) or very close to the tumor (intracavity brachytherapy).

Brachytherapy is largely used for the treatment of cervical cancer, prostate cancer, breast cancer, skin cancer, endometrial cancer, uterine cancer, head and neck cancer, and eye cancer. It can also help in the management of soft tissue sarcomas.

Brachytherapy may be recommended alone or in combination with other cancer treatments like external beam radiotherapy, chemotherapy, or other systemic therapies. Brachytherapy may also be recommended as a part of the palliative care plan to help patients manage the symptoms of advanced-stage cancers.

Brachytherapy also helps reduce damage to the surrounding healthy tissues.

How Does Brachytherapy Work?

Brachytherapy is a minimally invasive procedure. Brachytherapy treatment planning is done through a specialized computer software system. During the procedure, the radiation source is directly placed inside or next to the tumor; this way, the tumor receives maximum radiation. Through its highly localized and precise approach, brachytherapy minimizes damage to the surrounding healthy tissues.

Special applicators are used to place the radiation source in the target area with the help of imaging solutions like MRI or ultrasound.

There are two types of brachytherapy: temporary brachytherapy and permanent brachytherapy.

Temporary Brachytherapy: Temporary brachytherapy is used to treat cancers present in the body cavity, such as the prostate, uterus, or vagina. Temporary brachytherapy may be administered at a high-dose rate or low-dose rate.

Temporary brachytherapy needs a delivery device, such as a catheter, applicator, or needle, to be placed before the radiation delivery. The radioactive source is administered through this delivery device. This device may be removed after each session or after the last session.

Permanent Brachytherapy: During permanent brachytherapy, a needle filled with radioactive seeds is inserted into the tumor. The seeds are left behind, whereas the needle is removed. These seeds are left to decay. As they gradually decay, they emit radiation, which kills the cancer cells. The patients need not worry about being radioactive for a long period, as these seeds will eventually stop emitting radiation. Permanent brachytherapy is administered at a low-dose rate.

Advantages of Brachytherapy Radiation Treatment

As a localized therapy, brachytherapy supports high-level treatment precision.

Through conformal targeting, brachytherapy helps reduce damage to the surrounding healthy tissues.

By facilitating high-dose radiation therapy, brachytherapy helps reduce the overall treatment duration.

It may also help patients prevent or delay organ loss by reducing the need for surgery.

As a palliative treatment, brachytherapy helps reduce pain and discomfort for patients.

Frequently Asked Questions

As the name says, high-dose rate brachytherapy implants release high-dose radiation to destroy the tumor cells. Low-dose rate brachytherapy, on the other hand, releases low-dose radiation to kill cancer cells over time. The duration of low-dose rate brachytherapy may be anywhere between one and seven days, whereas high-dose rate brachytherapy takes 15-20 minutes.

There is a third type of brachytherapy, which is known as pulsed-dose rate brachytherapy. This form of brachytherapy combines the advantages of high-dose rate and low-dose rate brachytherapy types.

No, brachytherapy does not make you lose your hair. Since the radiation source is placed close to the tumor inside the body, there is no risk of hair loss for patients undergoing brachytherapy.

Some of the common side effects of brachytherapy include bruising, swelling, bleeding, pain, and discomfort in the treatment area.

Brachytherapy delivered to treat prostate cancer and gynecological cancers may also cause short-term urinary problems like pain and incontinence. In some cases, it may also lead to constipation, diarrhea, and rectal bleeding. Among prostate cancer patients, brachytherapy may lead to erectile dysfunction too.

It is best to talk to your treating doctor before the procedure, who will help you understand this procedure better and effectively address all your concerns.

No, brachytherapy and chemotherapy are different. Chemotherapy is a systemic therapy, i.e., it kills cancer cells throughout the body. Brachytherapy, on the other hand, is a form of localized radiation therapy given to treat cancer of a particular organ like the prostate gland, breasts, uterus, etc.

After temporary brachytherapy, the radiation source will be removed from the body, and the patient will no longer be radioactive. When the radiation source is inside your body, patients must avoid seeing visitors, as it might be harmful to them.

In the case of permanent brachytherapy, the radiation source placed inside the body emits radiation in low doses. Therefore, it is relatively safe for those around the patient. However, the patients will need to talk to their doctors before the procedure to understand the risks.

Iridium-192, iodine-125, and palladium-103 are the commonly used radioactive substances in brachytherapy.