What is Brachytherapy?
Brachytherapy is a type of radiation therapy in which a very small and intense radioactive source is placed near or in the tumour.
High dose rate (HDR) brachytherapy gives a high radiation dose to the tumour quickly. It is very precise and prevents the nearby normal tissue from being affected by the radiation.
Depending on where the cancer is in the body, the radiactive source placement is either permanent or temporary.
Permanent. This involves placing radioactive seed or pellet implants in the tumour and leaving them there. After several months, the radioactivity level of the implants reduces to a neglible amount.
Temporary. A highly radioactive source is placed inside a catheter or slender tube for a set amount of time, after which the tube is then removed. Temporary brachytherapy uses a high dose rate (HDR) unit. Patients go home after the treament - there is no overnight hospital stay.
How does HDR Brachytherapy work?
High dose rate (HDR) brachytherapy involves the remote placement of the radiation source. This means that a machine using a special applicater places the radioactive source very close or into the tumour. The placement is directed by a radiation oncology team. Treatment units called 'High-dose rate remote afterloading machines" allow the team to deliver a brachytherapy treament quickly.
The actual radiation treament takes a few minutes. The treaments are usually given in many parts called fractions. Treatments can be once or twice a day; or once or twice a week.
The treament is controlled from outside the treatment room. Patients are constantly watched as the radiation is delivered. Patients can go home shortly after treatment.
HDR Bracytherapy at JCC
Juvravinski Cancer Centre provides HDR brachytherapy for many types of cancer:
- Esophagus cancer
- Lung cancer
- Nasopharyngeal cancer
- Gynecological cancers
- Anal/rectal tumors
- Skin Cancer
- Bile duct cancer
- Protstate cancer
Who is involved in the procedure?
A radiation oncology treament team provides HDR brachytherapy to our patients. Team members include:
- Radiation Oncologist (Physician)
- Medical Physicist
- Treatment Planner
- Radiation Therapists
- Radiation Therapy Nurses
The Radiation Oncologist is a doctor who decides how the radiation is given, the amount of radiation and how much radiation the nearby tissue can tolerate.
The Physicist and the Treatment Planner then design the detailed treament plan and calculations for the machines.
The Radiation Therapists are responsible for the accurate delivery of the treaments and monitor the patient to ensure patient safety at all times.
The Radiation Therapy Nurse provides the sedation and carefully watches the patient. Patients are given medications through a vein (IV) to help them relax.
What are the benefits of HDR Brachytherapy?
Benefits of HDR Brachytherapy include:
Very effective in treating localized cancer, meaning a tumour that is located in just one area. The radiation can target the tumour and is very precise. There is no major damage to the nearby tissue.
Very little risk of side effects. The radiation targets the tumour, not the nearby healthy tissues.
Can be done without the need to spend the night in the hospital.
Fewer treatments are needed (about 1 to 5 treatments)