Brachytherapy is a form of internal radiation therapy that can be used to treat several types of cancer, including soft tissue sarcoma and bone sarcoma. Unlike external beam radiation therapy (EBRT)—in which high-energy X-ray beams are generated by an external machine (linear accelerator) and aimed at a tumor—brachytherapy involves the placement of radioactive material directly inside or next to a tumor. Fully sealed inside a pellet, seed, capsule or wire, the radioactive material damages the DNA of nearby cancer cells. This groundbreaking delivery system allows for a precisely targeted dose of radiation to maximize the effectiveness of the treatment while minimizing any exposure to the surrounding healthy tissues.
Types of Cancer Treated With Brachytherapy
Brachytherapy may be a treatment option for:
- Prostate cancer
- Cervical cancer
- Uterine (endometrial) cancer
- Breast cancer
- Lung cancer
- Rectal cancer
- Eye cancer
- Skin cancer
Brachytherapy for Sarcoma
When appropriate, the main form of treatment for sarcoma is usually surgery, which may be preceded or followed by radiation therapy or chemotherapy for heightened treatment effectiveness. However, it is not always possible for a surgeon to remove an entire tumor, and even when it is, microscopic cancer cells may remain at the surgical site. Over time, the cancerous cells may continue to grow and form new tumors. For these reasons, the use of high-dose-rate (HDR) brachytherapy may be considered to help decrease the chance of a sarcoma recurrence.
The latest advances in brachytherapy for sarcoma are available at the Sarcoma Center of Excellence in Tampa General Hospital’s Cancer Institute. A longstanding leader in cancer care, TGH utilizes advanced computer systems and mathematical modeling to ensure the safe and precise delivery of radiation treatment for specific types of cancer, including soft tissue sarcoma and bone sarcoma.
The radiation source used for brachytherapy is placed inside the patient’s body with a catheter or special applicator. The placement techniques include:
- Interstitial brachytherapy-The radiation source is placed within the tumor.
- Intracavity brachytherapy-The radiation source is placed within a body cavity, such as the vagina, or a surgically created cavity.
- Episcleral brachytherapy-The radiation source is attached to the eye.
What to Expect With Brachytherapy
The amount of time the radiation source is left in place can vary depending on the type of brachytherapy as well as the type and location of the tumor, the patient’s overall health and other factors.
There are three types of brachytherapy:
- Low-dose rate (LDR) implants-The radiation source remains in place for up to seven days. When the treatment is complete, the radiation source and applicator are removed.
- High-dose-rate (HDR) implants-The radiation source remains in place for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. The treatment may be given twice a day for two to five days or once a week for two to five weeks. When the treatment is complete, the radiation source and applicator are removed.
- Permanent implants-After the radiation source is put in place, the applicator is removed and the radiation source remains in the patient’s body for the rest of their life. Over time, the radiation will gradually weaken and eventually become fully depleted.
Effectiveness of Brachytherapy
Compared to EBRT, brachytherapy has been proven to be equally effective for the treatment of many types of cancer. What’s more, brachytherapy allows for the more precise delivery of a higher dose of radiation in a shorter time and generally causes fewer side effects compared to EBRT.
Benefit From World-Class Care at TGH
TGH’s Cancer Institute offers all types of radiation therapy, including brachytherapy. By offering cutting-edge diagnostic and treatment techniques for cancer, TGH further demonstrates its commitment to helping each patient achieve the best possible outcome and quality of life. Our advanced and attentive patient care has helped earn us the distinction of being named one of America’s Best Cancer Hospitals by Newsweek.
If you would like to discuss brachytherapy with an expert on our team, contact us at (813) 844-4151 to request an appointment.