Brachytherapy is a type of radiotherapy used in the treatment of cancer and involves placing the source of radiation directly in or near the cancerous tumor. This allows treatment to be more precise and reduces the damage to the healthy tissue around the tumor. Brachytherapy may be a standalone treatment option or may be combined with other treatments, such as external radiotherapy or surgery.
Types of cancer that can be treated by Brachytherapy
Brachytherapy may be used in the treatment of a number of cancers, including:
Brachytherapy is divided into two methods:
- In permanent implantation the radiation source is implanted into the tumor permanently. The radiation source will be as small as a sesame seed and a very small amount of low-level radiation will be released slowly until the source is depleted. This type of brachytherapy is often used for the treatment of low risk localized prostate cancer.
- In temporary implantation the radiation source is implanted directly into or close to the tumor cell temporarily. The source will release a high-level dose of radiation. This type of brachytherapy is used for the treatment of gynecological cancer, lung cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer, head and neck cancer and anal cancer.
The doctor will determine the most appropriate type of treatment for each patient by considering the following factors:
- The location of the tumor
- The size of the tumor
- Risk classification for localized prostate cancer
Advantages of Brachytherapy
- Increases the effectiveness of treatment as radiation can be focused on the location to be treatment.
- Low risk of side effects as radiation source may be placed within the tumor or nearby, which minimizes damage to surrounding tissue.
- It is a minimally invasive procedure that does not require major surgery.
- It can be done on an out-patient basis.
- Treatment duration is short and approximately takes one to five days.
- Recovery is shorter than that of surgery. Patient may return to their normal activities quite soon after the procedure.
Side Effects of Brachytherapy
The side effects of brachytherapy vary and each patient may experience different side effects in different severities, depending on the location of cancer being treated, the stage of the disease, and other health complications. Thus, the patient undergoing brachytherapy should discuss possible side effects with their doctor and inform their doctor immediately when problems occur.
Monitoring Treatment Results
The patient should keep all scheduled appointments with their doctor.
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