What is Brachytherapy?
High-dose-rate (HDR) brachytherapy is a technique that uses a relatively intense source of radiation-typically a 10 Curie source made of Iridium 192 – to deliver a therapeutic dose of radiation through temporarily placed needles, catheters, or other applicators.
The source is usually attached to or embedded in the end of a source wire or cable. The wire is then driven along catheters into applicators that have previously been placed in the patient. The source dwells in a preplanned position for a preset time before stepping along the catheter and repeating, in order to build up the required dose distribution.
By varying the position and dwell time, the dose can be neatly sculpted to provide a dose geometry which conforms to the shape of the target. The total dose is typically delivered in a series of two to ten fractions, or treatment sessions.
Traditionally, HDR brachytherapy has been used to treat cancers of the cervix and endometrium, bronchus, esophagus, head and neck, and soft tissue sarcomas. More recently, the technology has been successfully applied to prostate and breast cancers.
Brachytherapy (also known as “seed implantation”) is a method of treating prostate cancer that has not spread beyond the prostate gland. Using ultrasound image guidance, radioactive seeds are placed into the prostate via needles inserted through the perineum (skin just behind the scrotum). Brachytherapy has increased in popularity over recent years due to its effectiveness and relative convenience.
Prostate brachytherapy is an alternative to traditional external beam radiation or surgery for men who have early stage prostate cancer (cancer that has not spread outside the prostate gland). Seed implantation is also an attractive option for men whose age or other health conditions preclude radical prostatectomy, or who may be unable to undergo 8 weeks of daily treatments for external beam radiation therapy.
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