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).|