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Brachytherapy

Brachytherapy is a form of radiation where the the radioactive source is brought close to the target tissue rather than treating from a distance with a machine (called external beam irradiation).

Common types of brachytherapy include implanting radioactive seeds into a tumor (see section on prostate seeds here). The seeds are left in permanently and give off radiation in a slow manner (called low dose rate radiation). Other techniques include implanting tubes of radium or cesium that will slowly radiate a tumor over a matter of hours (see section on gynecologic intracavitary radiation here).

New devices use highly radioactive isotopes that will treat a tumor in a matter of minutes and are referred to as high dose rate (HDR) devices (see section on Nucletron). This device has been used to treat gynecologic cancers, lung and esophagus.

More recently HDR techniques have been used to treat breast cancer, reducing a 6 week course down to 5 days (see section on Mammosite here).