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Brachytherapy

Brachytherapy is a radiation treatment technique that delivers radiation to tumors by accurately placing radioactive sources under careful guidance in close proximity to the tumor (known as intracavitary brachytherapy) or within the tumor itself (known as interstitial brachytherapy). Radioactive sources may be placed within the body temporarily while they deliver a specified dose of radiation to the tumor over a prescribed time interval and are then removed. Radiation sources may also be placed within the body permanently in which case the radiation dose is delivered over time until the radioactive sources burn out their radiation and remain within the body in an inert, non-radioactive state. Brachytherapy is typically performed as cooperative procedure with joint contribution from the radiation oncologist and surgical specialist.

This technique has many advantages that allow for the optimal treatment of several cancers, either in conjunction with external beam radiation therapy or as the sole cancer treatment. Placing the radioactive sources directly into the tumor enables the doctor to deliver higher radiation doses to the target, achieves rapid dose fall-off resulting in less radiation dose to surrounding normal tissues, and accounts for the movement associated with physiologic processes such as respiration and bladder or rectal filling and emptying. A list of the cancers that are frequently treated with brachytherapy is provided below:

  • Prostate Cancers
  • Cervical Cancers
  • Endometrial Cancers
  • Sarcomas
  • Brain Tumors
  • Lung Cancers and Lung Metastases
  • Spine Cancers
  • Liver Cancers and Liver Metastases
  • Eye Tumors

ROA doctors are pleased to offer both high-dose-rate (HDR) and low-dose-rate (LDR) brachytherapy treatment. Each technique has advantages that can be utilized to provide optimal treatment for various tumors. The selection of the optimal brachytherapy device and technique is critical, as is the appropriate use of available technology and physician experience to perform the procedure properly. ROA doctors are proud to provide most advanced technology and experienced doctors with this technology in the Washington D.C. area. Your ROA physician will carefully discuss all of these considerations with you and explain why the recommended brachytherapy technique is best for you.

High Dose Rate (HDR) Brachytherapy

HDR brachytherapy uses high activity Iridium-192 radioactive sources allowing the treatment to be delivered in just minutes. HDR brachytherapy is performed in our HDR Suite within the Department of Radiation Oncology at Fairfax Hospital. HDR brachytherapy is an outpatient procedure, avoiding the need for general anesthesia and a prolonged hospital stay. Between treatments, the Iridium-192 source is stored in a shielded device and the treatment is delivered under computer control with direct physician supervision during the entire procedure.

One benefit of HDR brachytherapy is that the source position and treatment times can be precisely controlled for each source position, allowing the Radiation Oncologist to create customized dose distributions based on the patient-specific anatomy and tumor geometry.

HDR brachytherapy is used to treat a variety of disease sites including cervical cancer, endometrial (uterine) cancer, breast cancer, and lung cancers.

Low Dose Rate (LDR) Brachytherapy

LDR brachytherapy uses lower activity radioactive sources to deliver the radiation treatment over 2 – 4 days. LDR brachytherapy takes advantage of normal tissue recovery that occurs during the 2 – 4 day course of treatment, allowing treatment of the tumor while minimizing the short- and long-term side effects of radiation on the surrounding normal tissues.

LDR brachytherapy is used to treat a variety of disease sites including prostate cancer, cervical cancer, endometrial (uterine) cancer, sarcomas, eye tumors, brain tumors, and liver tumors.

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