December 9, 2007
- Conditions Treated with Brachytherapy
Brachytherapy can be used to treat many cancers. Radiation oncologists commonly use it in the treatment of cervical, endometrial, prostate and bile duct cancers as well as soft tissue sarcomas. It may also be used to treat breast cancer and some cancers of the head and neck, lung, and esophagus. Radiation oncologists use several types of brachytherapy depending upon a patient’s condition.
- How It Works
Brachytherapy is a form of radiotherapy in which physicians place the source of irradiation close to the tumor or within a body cavity. Brachytherapy may include placing radioactive sources inside a body cavity (intracavitary brachytherapy) such as the vagina, or by putting radioactive material directly into body tissue using hollow needles (interstitial brachytherapy). Brachytherapy may be given in addition to external beam radiation, or it may be used as the only form of radiotherapy. In some cases the radioactive sources may be permanently left in place; in other cases, they are removed after a specified time. Placement of radioactive sources may be repeated several times in some situations.
- Advantages of Brachytherapy
Experts have found that brachytherapy allows a higher than normal dose of radiation placed in or adjacent to the tumor. This approach reduces the risk of damage to healthy tissue and increases the likelihood of destroying the tumor.
- Results of Brachytherapy
- Endometrial Cancer
In a recent Mayo Clinic study, researchers reported that endometrial cancer patients at risk for recurrence could be treated safely and effectively with three high dose rate brachytherapy treatments during a one- to two-week period. The researchers found the treatment not only to be more convenient than a six-week course of daily external beam treatments, but also highly effective and associated with significantly fewer side effects for patients in whom the main risk for cancer relapse was in the upper vagina. For patients in whom pelvic lymphatics or nodes are at risk for relapse, in addition to the vagina, brachytherapy would preferably be combined with external beam pelvic radiation (25 to 28 treatments over 5 to 5 1/2 weeks).
- Bile Duct Cancer
Mayo Clinic investigators have found that a pre-transplant regimen of chemotherapy, external beam radiotherapy and brachytherapy resulted in a higher cure rate following liver transplantation for bile duct cancer than would be expected with liver transplantation alone.
- Ocular Melanoma
A recent study demonstrated that use of a temporary low dose rate implant was an effective alternative to removal of the eye for patients with melanoma.