what is brachytherapy?
In this article, we delve into the world of Brachytherapy – a life-saving treatment regimen beneficial to many cancer patients. We will explore the multiple facets of this therapy, including its workings, the benefits and potential side effects, eligibility for treatment, and future advancements in the field.

What Is Brachytherapy?

Defining Brachytherapy

Brachytherapy, coined from the Greek word ‘brachys’ meaning ‘short distance’, is a form of internal radiation therapy where radioactive material is directly placed in or near the tumor. The goal is to deliver a high dose of radiation directly to cancer cells, thereby diminishing the damage to surrounding healthy tissues.

Historical Background of Brachytherapy

Brachytherapy’s roots trace back to the early 20th century, coinciding with the discovery of radium. Pioneers in radiology, like Marie and Pierre Curie, paved the way for what has become an essential method in modern cancer treatment.

Types of Brachytherapy

Low-Dose Rate (LDR) Brachytherapy

LDR brachytherapy involves placing small radioactive seeds permanently in the body. The radiation dose is delivered slowly, over several days to months.

High-Dose Rate (HDR) Brachytherapy

In HDR brachytherapy, the radioactive source is temporarily placed for few minutes at a time. This process may be repeated over days or weeks for a few sessions.

Pulse Dose Rate (PDR) Brachytherapy

PDR brachytherapy is a blend of LDR and HDR, where radiation is given in pulses, typically once an hour over 12-24 hours.

Temporary and Permanent Brachytherapy

Temporary brachytherapy involves placing a radioactive source temporarily, whereas in permanent brachytherapy, the radioactive seeds remain in the body and gradually lose their radioactivity.

How Does Brachytherapy Work?

Explaining the Process

In brachytherapy, radioactive material is delivered directly to the tumor via a specially designed applicator. This decreases the travel distance of radiation, increasing its efficacy and decreasing exposure to healthy tissues.

Role of Radiation

Radiation destroys the DNA of cancer cells, inhibiting their ability to divide and grow. This is crucial in preventing cancer from spreading or recurring.

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Benefits of Brachytherapy

Advantages Over Other Cancer Treatments

Brachytherapy’s key advantage is its precision. By placing radiation directly into the tumor, it maximizes damage to cancer cells while sparing surrounding healthy tissues. This often results in fewer side effects and a shorter recovery time.

Success Rates

Brachytherapy success rates vary depending on the cancer type, stage, and patient’s overall health. However, it has shown significant success, particularly in treating prostate, breast, and gynecological cancers.

Downsides and Side Effects of Brachytherapy

Possible Risks

While brachytherapy is usually well-tolerated, potential risks may include infection, bleeding, pain, and damage to surrounding tissues and organs. Some may experience fatigue or localized side effects related to the treatment area.

How to Manage With Side Effects

Most side effects are temporary and can be managed with medications or other supportive care. Regular follow-up appointments will ensure any issues are promptly addressed.

Who Is A Good Candidate For Brachytherapy?

Eligibility Criteria

Primarily, a good candidate for brachytherapy is one with localized cancer that has not spread to distant body parts. The patient’s overall health, age, and ability to tolerate anesthesia could also influence their eligibility.

Contraindications for Brachytherapy

However, patients with severe medical conditions, those sensitive to radiation, or have large, inaccessible or previously treated tumors may not be suitable for brachytherapy.

The Future of Brachytherapy

Innovative Technological Advances

As technology advances, so do the possibilities for brachytherapy. Innovations like 3D imaging techniques and real-time treatment planning are dramatically improving the precision and efficacy of treatments.

Treatment and Research Developments

Future research in the field aims at improving radioactive sources, enhancing radiation delivery techniques, and exploring better ways to mitigate side effects.


Brachytherapy has emerged as a vital player in cancer treatment, providing many patients with renewed hope. As we continue to advance in technology and research, it will undoubtedly play an even more prominent role in the battle against cancer.


  • What conditions is Brachytherapy commonly used to treat?

Brachytherapy is commonly used to treat various types of cancers, including prostate, breast, cervical, and skin cancer.

  • How long does a Brachytherapy session usually take?

A session’s duration can vary depending on the type of brachytherapy, usually ranging from a few minutes to 20-30 minutes.

  • Can Brachytherapy be used in conjunction with other cancer treatments?

Absolutely. Brachytherapy can be used alongside chemotherapy, external beam radiation, and surgery as part of a comprehensive treatment plan.

  • What should I expect after undergoing Brachytherapy?

Patients might experience localized side effects in the treatment area or fatigue. These side effects usually resolve over time.

  • Are there any dietary restrictions or guidelines to follow after receiving Brachytherapy?

Specific guidelines depend on the treatment area. For instance, prostate brachytherapy patients are advised to follow a laxative diet before and after the procedure. Detailed guidelines will be provided by the healthcare team.