Brachytherapy

Brachytherapy is a special form of internal radiation therapy where a radioactive source is placed beside or inside the tumour, to deliver radiation to small areas over a period of time.

Overview

Brachytherapy is a special form of internal radiation therapy where a radioactive source is placed beside or inside the tumour, to deliver radiation to small areas over a period of time. Brachytherapy is commonly used for, but not limited to, the treatment of gynaecological, prostate and skin cancers.

Brachytherapy can be administered through either a permanent radioactive seed implant (Low Dose Rate “LDR” treatment) or through moving a radioactive source in and/or around the cancer (High Dose Rate “HDR” treatment). With HDR treatment, the radioactive source is retracted out of the body once depositing the prescribed dose by the clinical oncologist. Our clinical oncologists will discuss which treatment is suitable for you.

The benefits of brachytherapy compared with other forms of radiation treatment include:

  • Ability to deliver high localised dose
  • Rapid fall off of dose
  • Ability to sculpt dose to shape of tumour or organ of interest

Vaginal brachytherapy

Brachytherapy can also be an effective treatment used to treat the top of the vagina to reduce the risk of cancer recurring.

At your first treatment the clinical oncologist will perform a vaginal examination to determine the size of applicators to use for your treatment. The clinical oncologist will determine which is most suitable for you.  The clinical oncologist will then insert the applicators. You may feel a little discomfort, but this should not cause you pain.

The catheters are then connected to the treatment machine, where the radiation source can pass into the applicators.  Your treatment will be given over four sessions, each session lasting about twenty minutes.

You will not require any special preparation for this treatment, and are free to go home after each treatment.

Frequently asked questions

Side effects 

  • There are very little side effects associated with vaginal brachytherapy.  This treatment will only deliver a high radiation dose to several millimetres of tissue.
  • There may be a change to your bowel habits, but this is very minimal.
  • Vaginal Stenosis (reduction in length of the vagina) has been seen in over 50% of women.  The use of a vaginal cylinder will help reduce this incidence.

Will I be radioactive?

You will not be radioactive. The radiation source will pass into the applicators and retract back into the machine once the treatment has been delivered. You will not feel, see or hear the radiation. The brachytherapy team will then scan the room to ensure the source has travelled back into the machine.  The doctor and nurse will then remove the applicators.

Making an appointment

Find out how to make an appointment at Icon Cancer Centre, or request more information from your nearest centre.
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Our doctors

Icon brings together an experienced team of clinical oncologists.
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Care team

Every member of Icon’s team is here to help. Here are some of the team members you may meet and how they will be involved in your treatment.
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