At Winship, we offer high dose rate and low dose rate brachytherapy.
Brachytherapy is a method of treatment in which sealed radioactive sources are used to deliver radiation a short distance from a tumor to kill or slow the growth of cancer cells. At Winship Cancer Institute, we use brachytherapy to treat the following cancers, among others: prostate, gynecologic, skin, breast, bladder, rectal and ocular melanoma.
Brachytherapy enables precise and direct treatment of cancerous tumors, sparing surrounding healthy tissue and organs. Sparing healthy tissue and organs reduces the risk of potential long-term treatment side effects. With a short course of treatment (1-5 days) and short recovery times (typically 2-5 days), brachytherapy can help you get back to your busy life with minimal disruption.
High Dose Rate (HDR)
In high dose rate (HDR) brachytherapy, high intensity sources of radiation are placed inside the body for a short time, usually only a few minutes. HDR is usually performed on an outpatient basis, in a small number of sessions over a few weeks. At Winship, HDR is commonly used to treat gynecological, lung, breast, and prostate cancers.
Low Dose Rate (LDR)
In low dose rate (LDR) brachytherapy, low intensity, tiny radioactive “seeds” are permanently placed inside or near the tumor. Radiation is continually released, gradually decreasing over time, until the seeds are inactive. At Winship, LDR is commonly used in the treatment of prostate cancer.
Today’s brachytherapy uses a combination of state of the art imaging, computer-based planning and treatment delivery technologies to deliver a high total dose of radiation with minimized side effects and excellent outcomes. Most prostate cancer patients cope very well with treatment.
Two types of brachytherapy are used to treat prostate cancer:
Low dose rate (LDR) brachytherapy. Also known as seed therapy, LDR brachytherapy involves precise and permanent implantation of tiny radioactive pellets (often called seeds) into the prostate. LDR brachytherapy is commonly used for patients with low-risk disease, but may also be used alone or in combination with external beam radiation therapy for certain intermediate-risk patients. Since seed implantation is completed in a single session, it allows patients a fast return to their daily activity.
High dose rate (HDR) brachytherapy. HDR brachytherapy is used to treat intermediate- and low-risk patients. HDR brachytherapy may also be used with external beam radiation therapy to provide an additional, targeted dose of radiation. A treatment session takes around 1.5-2 hours, with the total number of sessions depending on factors such as how advanced your cancer is, or other treatments you may receive. With a total treatment time of only 1-2 days, HDR brachytherapy allows a quick return to routine activity.
Brachytherapy enables our physicians to tailor highly precise radiation doses directly to gynecologic and breast tumors while minimizing exposure to nearby healthy tissue.
Brachytherapy can be used with a combination of treatments, including surgery and chemotherapy, based on a patient’s disease type, tumor stage and location, as well as individual factors such as age, general health status and treatment acceptance. This is an effective treatment option for many women due to the low risk of side effects and short treatment times with quality of life benefits.
If you have skin cancer and are over the age of 60, talk to your doctor about skin brachytherapy.
Skin brachytherapy is an excellent option for treating skin cancer. This type of radiation therapy has had excellent results treating even medically inoperable lesions. With skin brachytherapy, there is no anesthesia, nothing to cut and the cosmetic results may be better than with surgery. Any skin lesion can be treated from head to toe. Skin brachytherapy has proven to be especially effective for treating difficult to reach areas such as around the eyes, nose and hands.
Radiation can be used as a stand-alone treatment, and often it is the only treatment needed. Radiation is also used in combination with surgery, chemotherapy and other targeted therapies. For example, doctors can use radiation before surgery to shrink a tumor or after surgery to stop the growth of remaining cancer cells.
Visit Winship Cancer Institute to explore all our multidisciplinary treatment options at Emory University.