This allows the radiation to be precisely targeted to ensure the tumor receives the most effective dose to kill the cancer cells.1 This ‘tailored approach’ also reduces the risk of any unnecessary damage to healthy tissue and organs that are close to the tumor, therefore reducing potential side effects.1
Doctors plan and deliver brachytherapy by using computer software to determine how and where the radiation should be delivered in the body.1 The radiation is delivered precisely and accurately to the tumor by the use of special applicators. The applicators are carefully placed in the correct position by using various imaging techniques, such as ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans.1 A small source of radiation, usually held on the end of a wire, is delivered to the treatment site via the applicators.
Radiotherapy works by damaging the genetic material (also known as DNA) of cancerous cells.2 When brachytherapy is delivered to a tumor, the radiation damages the genetic material, which prevents the cancer cells from growing and multiplying.
Temporary brachytherapy - sources of radiation are placed inside or next to the tumor for a short amount of time, typically a few minutes.1 These sources of radiation usually use a high rate or ‘intensity’ of radiation, and are known as high dose rate (HDR) sources. Temporary HDR brachytherapy is often used to treat cancer of the cervix, lungs, breast and prostate.1 It is usually performed on an outpatient basis, meaning you won't need an overnight stay in hospital. A small number of sessions of treatment are typically needed, which can take place over a period of just a few weeks.3
In addition to LDR and HDR brachytherapy, radiation can also be delivered in short pulses of radiation (e.g. once an hour). This is termed ‘pulsed dose rate’ (PDR) brachytherapy and is a type of temporary brachytherapy. PDR brachytherapy is often used to treat gynecological and head and neck cancers. PDR brachytherapy is commonly used to simulate the overall rate and effectiveness of LDR treatment.4
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