Brachytherapy (also sometimes called "seed implementation") is a short course of radiation therapy delivered to the patient in a controlled environment over a short period of time, usually a few days. It is most typically used in treatment for breast cancer, gynecologic cancers, and prostate cancer.
In brachytherapy, radioactive "seeds" are carefully placed inside the cancerous tissue, and positioned in a manner that most efficiently encompasses the cancerous region. There are two different kinds of brachytherapy: permanent (LDR) and temporary (HDR).
Low Doserate Brachytherapy (also sometimes called "prostate seed implants") is a course of radiation therapy delivered to the patient in a surgical outpatient procedure. It is primarily used in the treatment of prostate cancer. With permanent implants, the radioactivity of the seeds decays with time (only 1/4 of the radiation remains after 4 months), while the actual seeds permanently stay within the treatment area.
High Doserate Brachytherapy is typically used with many gynecologic, breast, and lung cancers. This form of treatment is delivered by placing a source in an applicator that has been placed (or temporarily implanted) inside the body. The radiation is only present during the treatment sessions and is removed after the calculated period of time, usually 2-10 minutes. This type of treatment course can consist of 2 treatments a day for 5 days or 1-2 treatments per week for 2-3 weeks, depending on the area of treatment.
Brachytherapy has now been used for more than a century, and has been proven to be very effective and safe. Many times, it is a good alternative to the surgical removal of the prostate, breast or cervix, while at the same time, reducing the risk of certain long-term side effects.
For additional information, visit the American Brachytherapy Society.