Internal Radiation Therapy - Brachytherapy

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Brachytherapy, or Internal Radiation Therapy, is radiation treatment that is given inside the patient, as close to the cancer as possible. The radiation is delivered to the body site with radioactive isotopes inside wires, seeds, or rods. These devices are called implants.

Types of Internal Radiation Therapy (aka Brachytherapy, Brachy, BT)

Brachytherapy is the insertion of a radioactive source directly within, or in close contact with, the body.  We call the product of the insertion procedure an “Implant”.   At NHRMC, we use two general types of brachytherapy implants:  Permanent and temporary.  

A permanent implant involves placing radioactive seeds (sometimes called pellets) directly into the organ we are treating.  These seeds will stay in place permanently but the radiation that they contain decays over time until they become harmless. 

A temporary implant involves placing either tiny hollow catheters or metal rods into the body tissue or a body cavity.  The implant is then connected to a machine that delivers a highly radioactive source into the channel for a few minutes.  When the treatment is completed, the radioactive source is withdrawn, and the implant is removed from the body.

Brachytherapy is most commonly used to treat prostate, cervix, and uterine cancer.  It is sometimes used alone and the sole form of radiation and other times it is combined with external beam radiation therapy.  

Radiopharmaceuticals 

Radiopharmaceuticals are injectable radioactive compounds that can be used to diagnose and treat many medical conditions. There are two such treatments that NHRMC Radiation Oncology provides:
Xofigo (Ra-223) and Quadramet (Sm-153)

Xofigo is exclusively used in men with prostate cancer that has spread to the bone. It is given as an i.v. injection once per month for 6 months. The radioactivity is taken up by areas in the bone where there is rapid growth activity and can be an effective therapy in situations where there are multiple area of bone involvement.  

Quadramet is used to treat bone pain associated with prostate and breast cancer and is given as a single injection.