Brachytherapy is a technique used by ARM radiation oncologists to deliver radiation therapy using a radiation source that is place next to or into a tumor/tumor cavity. The advantage of this technique is that the radiation is able to be given at a very high dose within and near the tumor, while quickly dissipating away, thus sparing the normal tissues. This technique has been utilized for over 100 years and continues to be used, but in a high-tech, image guided format that is much more precise and accurate than the treatments used historically.
ARM radiation oncologists use brachytherapy for prostate cancer (where seeds are placed into the prostate in the operating room), breast cancer (where a balloon or strut-based device is placed into the lumpectomy cavity), gynecologic cancers (where a device is placed into the uterus/cervix/vagina), and skin cancer (where a mold is placed over the skin cancer). These techniques are highly efficacious and the side effects range from mild to moderate. For prostate cancer, general anesthesia is used and for gynecologic cancer, sedatives and pain medications are given, but for the other sites, patients report minimal discomfort. When you go to your consultation with an ARM radiation oncologist, they will discuss whether brachytherapy is a treatment from which you may benefit.