Feeling mild COVID-19 symptoms? For the safety of our community, you do NOT need to visit the emergency department unless critical symptoms are experienced. Visit our COVID-19 hub to learn more. Visit the COVID-19 Hub

Brachytherapy

Brachytherapy Procedure 

Brachytherapy is a form of internal radiation therapy that can be used to treat several types of cancer. 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. 

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 

Procedure Details 

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 his or her life. Over time, the radiation will gradually weaken and eventually become fully depleted.  

Effectiveness of Brachytherapy 

As 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 period of time and generally causes fewer side effects compared to EBRT.  

Tampa General Hospital's Cancer Institute offers all types of radiation therapy, including brachytherapy.  Our advanced and attentive patient care has earned us a place on the 2021 list of the World’s Best Hospitals compiled by Newsweek.