Brachytherapy (brak-e-THER-uh-pee) is a method for destroying cancer cells by placing small radioactive sources into the tumor. Brachytherapy allows physicians to deliver radiation to a tightly defined target area, keeping the doses to the surrounding healthy tissue low.
At Froedtert & the Medical College, patients undergo a CT scan and MRI prior to each brachytherapy treatment, allowing precisely targeted treatment that may improve outcomes and decrease toxicity (side effects) from treatment.
There are two general types of brachytherapy: low-dose-rate brachytherapy and high-dose-rate brachytherapy.
Standard Brachytherapy (Low-Dose-Rate Brachytherapy or LDR)
During an outpatient procedure, a physician uses thin needles to implant small radioactive “seeds.” The seeds can be placed within and around the tumor and may number up to 100 or more. The “seeds” give off radiation at a low dose rate over several weeks and remain in permanently.
High-Dose-Rate (HDR) Brachytherapy
Radiation intensity can be altered using the CT-based HDR brachytherapy planning system. Therefore, radiation dose to the tumor cells in the tumor bed can be maximized, while radiation to nearby normal tissue structures can be minimized. In addition, HDR brachytherapy is available as inpatient or outpatient treatment.
During this procedure, a physician uses thin needles to insert several tiny catheters in and around the tumor. A radioactive source is then deployed through each catheter, delivering a high dose of radiation to the cancer. Each dose exposure takes several minutes, and the radioactive source is removed after each treatment session. The catheters are removed after the last treatment. The entire treatment series takes days instead of weeks.
Brachytherapy to Treat Cancers
Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin uses Brachytherapy as a very effective way to treat many different types of cancers.
- Early-stage prostate cancers
- Soft Tissue Sarcomas
- Uterine Cancer
- Cervical Cancer
- Vaginal and Vulvar Cancers
- Bile Duct Cancer