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Brachytherapy refers to various procedures that place radioactive material inside your body. It is not as common as external radiation, where a machine sends radiation beams into the body. For certain types of cancer, brachytherapy is as effective as - or more effective than - external treatments. It may be completed in less time. In some cases, brachytherapy is combined with external radiation therapy.
During brachytherapy, you’ll receive a permanent or temporary implant containing radioactive material. There are many types of implants, including seeds, wires and balloons. Your implant will be placed inside, or next to, your tumor.
The type of brachytherapy you'll need depends on several factors. These include the size and location of your tumor, and whether you're also undergoing other cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy or surgery. Brachytherapy is often used to treat cancers of the breast, prostate, cervix and uterus.
Mercy offers three main types of brachytherapy:
HDR brachytherapy places a powerful radiation source in your body for a few minutes at a time. You may need several short treatment sessions which may range from a few days to a few weeks.
During permanent brachytherapy, tiny, rice-sized seeds are implanted within the body which emit radiation for several weeks. As time passes, the seeds become less radioactive. The inactive implants remain in your body permanently.
Skin HDR uses an applicator to place a radioactive substance on areas of skin with basal cell or squamous cell skin cancers. The process causes minimal scarring and side effects. Patients may require several treatments over 4-6 weeks.
All types of radiation therapy kill cancer cells. But brachytherapy offers several advantages. These include:
For certain types of cancer, brachytherapy is as effective as - or more effective than - external treatments.
Your Mercy care team will make sure you understand what to expect before, during and after brachytherapy treatment. For example:
If you have questions or concerns about brachytherapy, please talk to one of your Mercy caregivers. We'll help you understand your options and make decisions best suited to your condition.
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