Brachytherapy treats cancer by placing radioactive sources directly into or next to the area requiring treatment. This enables clinicians to deliver a high dose with minimal impact on surrounding healthy tissues. Brachytherapy has proven to be a highly successful treatment for 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.
Brachytherapy primarily uses two different techniques:
Low Dose Rate (LDR) uses a lower strength radioactive source and is associated with longer treatment times (for the one time treatment). The most commonly used LDR treatment site is the prostate which involves permanent placement of tiny radioactive seeds in tissue in the prostate. Historically LDR has been used in the treatment of other sites such as gyn and head & neck where low activity sources are temporarily placed for several days & then removed.
High Dose Rate (HDR) uses a higher strength radioactive source contained within an afterloader device. The afterloader delivers the source for a brief period of time to catheters, needles, or other appliances placed in the tumor site. Per treatment, HDR is much shorter procedure (minutes vs. days) than LDR but it does require multiple treatments. Increasingly more common, HDR techniques have replaced LDR techniques for most body sites.