What is Brachytherapy?


Brachytherapy is a radiotherapy technique used to fight cancer by directing targeted radiation to shrink tumors. The goal is to conform the dose to the size and shape of the target while minimizing the dose to surrounding healthy tissue. Sometimes, brachytherapy is referred to as "internal radiotherapy." Or it may be called "seed therapy" when treating prostate cancer using permanently placed low-dose rate (LDR) sources.

While external beam radiation therapy works by delivering a beam of radiation to the tumor from outside the body, brachytherapy treats cancer by placing radioactive sources directly into or next to the target area. This enables clinicians to deliver a high dose to the target area with minimal impact on surrounding healthy tissues. The radiation damages the DNA within the cancer cells, inhibiting their ability to grow and reproduce. In some instances, brachytherapy is used in conjunction with external beam radiation therapy to deliver a higher dose to a specific area.

Brachytherapy is used to treat cancers of the prostate, cervix, endometrium, breast, skin, bronchus, esophagus, and head and neck, as well as soft tissue sarcomas and several other types of cancer.1 Talk to your doctor about whether or not brachytherapy is appropriate for your treatment.

  1. Patel RR and Arthur DW. Hematology/Oncology Clinics of North America 2006;20 (1):97–118.Martinez A and Vicini F. Seminars in Radiation Oncology 2002:12(1):31-39.D. Jeffrey Demanes, M.D. et al. International Journal of Radiation Oncology Biology and Physics (IJROBP), Vol. 61, No.5, 99 1306-1316, 1 April 2005.Kathy L. Baglan M.D. et al. International Journal of Radiation Oncology Biology and Physics (IJROBP) Vol. 45, No.1 pp. 105-112, 1999.