Brachytherapy is a radiation treatment used to fight cancer. The treatment has existed for over a hundred years. Brachy comes from the word for short. With cancer, the short is in relation to the distance of the pellets that emit radiation towards the cancer.
As mentioned, Brachytherapy is a treatment for some types of cancer. The most common cancers to be treated this way are prostate, cervical, esophageal, lung, head and neck, sarcomas and breast.
Brachytherapy has rice-sized pellets inserted into the body near the cancer or tumor. These seeds are then loaded with radiation that is emitted over a period of time, targeting the cancer and reducing the chances of affecting nearby tissues.
Brachytherapy can be administered as high dose or low dose. Low dose treatments are preferred for low risk cancers. The pellets emit a low dose of radiation to the surrounding cancer for approximately one month before the seeds become inert. For high dose radiation, more than one treatment may be necessary. This is intended to target high-risk cancers and the levels of radiation are increased.
The seeds or pellets referred to are inserted into the body either through the vagina or rectum or with a hollow needle. The seeds may be left in the body after treatment has ended, or they may be removed.
Depending on the type and progression of the cancer, hundreds of seeds could be placed to fight the cancer. External Beam Radiation may be used alongside Brachytherapy to help increase the odds of getting rid of the cancer.
Brachytherapy may be used as an alternative to removal of the prostate, uterus, breast and more. Most people who undergo this type of radiation experience no major side effects. The treatment is usually administered on an outpatient basis.
When done effectively, cancer cells are killed while healthy surrounding tissues remain healthy. Because of the various types of cancer, length of treatment will depend on the individual case. Follow your doctor’s advice for the best chances of battling cancer.