Karmanos Cancer Institute
Brachytherapy

Brachytherapy

Brachytherapy is a type of internal radiation therapy in which seeds, ribbons or capsules that contain a radiation source are placed in your body, in or near the tumor. Brachytherapy is a local treatment and treats only a specific part of your body. High-dose rate (HDR) brachytherapy is used to treat prostate, skin, gynecologic and breast cancers, while lose-dose rate (LDR) brachytherapy is used to treat prostate cancer. With this treatment, radiation is directed to the cancer at the tumor site, enhancing cancer control while minimizing exposure to nearby healthy tissue and vital organs.

  Types of brachytherapy

  • High-dose rate (HDR) implants: In this type of brachytherapy, the radiation source is left in place for just 10 to 20 minutes at a time and then taken out. You may have treatment twice a day for two to five days or once a week for two to five weeks. The schedule depends on your type of cancer. During the course of treatment, your catheter or applicator may stay in place, or it may be put in place before each treatment. You may be in the hospital during this time, or you may make daily trips to the hospital to have the radiation source put in place. As with LDR implants, your doctor will remove the catheter or applicator once you have finished treatment. This type of treatment is used for the following cancer types:
    • Prostate
    • Skin
    • Gynecologic
    • Breast

  • Low-dose rate (LDR) implants: In this type of brachytherapy, the radiation source stays in place for one to seven days. You are likely to be in the hospital during this time. Once your treatment is finished, your doctor will remove the radiation source and the catheter or applicator. This type of treatment is used to treat prostate cancer.

  • Radiopharmaceutical therapy: This type of therapy is a drug that contains a radioactive substance and is used to diagnose or treat diseases such as cancer. Examples are Lutathera and Xofigo.

With brachytherapy, the radiation source in your body will give off radiation for a while. If the radiation you receive is a very high dose, you may need to follow some safety precautions given to you by your health care team.

Brachytherapy to Treat Cancer was originally published by the National Cancer Institute.