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HDR brachytherapy for breast cancer

What is HDR brachytherapy?

High-dose rate (HDR) brachytherapy is a type of internal radiation therapy that delivers high doses of radiation from implants placed close to, or inside, the tumor(s) in the body.

Because cancer often affects organs and other essential structures, it is important for radiation treatment to be tightly focused on tumors to minimize serious side effects. This technique ensures the maximum radiation dose is given to cancerous tissues, while minimizing exposure to the surrounding healthy tissue.

How it works

With this form of brachytherapy, tiny, hollow catheters are temporarily inserted directly into a tumor. Before each treatment, we check the position of the catheters with millimeter precision.

Next, a series of radioactive pellets are inserted into each catheter. Computer guidance controls (1) how far the pellet goes into the catheter to precisely target the location of tumors, and (2) how long the pellet stays in the catheter to release its radiation dose.

With a few well-placed catheters, HDR brachytherapy can provide a precise treatment that takes only a few minutes. Brachytherapy offers a quicker, more effective type of radiation treatment for some patients. For many cancer types, the entire brachytherapy treatment takes one to two days, instead of five to seven weeks for external beam radiation therapy (EBRT). Depending on the type and stage of cancer, brachytherapy may be combined with other treatments, which can vary treatment times.

High-dose rate (HDR) brachytherapy medical animation

Video: HDR Brachytherapy Medical Animation

Medical Animation

Advantages of HDR brachytherapy for breast cancer

The following are advantages of HDR brachytherapy for breast cancer:

  • It delivers a precise, highly concentrated dose of radiation directly to the breast tumor.
  • HDR brachytherapy limits radiation exposure to healthy surrounding breast tissue, reducing some of the side effects associated with standard radiation.
  • The treatment takes minutes, rather than days for low-dose brachytherapy.
  • After a series of treatments, the catheters are removed and there are no radioactive seeds left in the body.

We may also use HDR brachytherapy following surgery, like a lumpectomy, to help eradicate any cancerous cells that remain after the procedure.

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