Cervical Cancer High-Dose Rate (HDR) Brachytherapy
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HDR Brachytherapy for Cervical Cancer
High-Dose Rate (HDR) brachytherapy is an innovative form of internal radiation therapy we use at Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) for the treatment of cervical cancer.
Because the cervix is located close to the bladder and rectum, it is important for radiation treatment to be tightly focused on the cervix to avoid serious side effects. HDR brachytherapy deposits radiation inside a tumor, delivering a maximum dose while minimizing exposure to the surrounding healthy tissue.
With this form of brachytherapy, your doctor temporarily places a special applicator device, called a tandem and ovoid, inside the vagina. Before each treatment, the radiation team checks the position of the applicator with millimeter precision. Next, a series of radioactive pellets are inserted into the applicator.
A precise, three-dimensional dose of radiation is delivered to the cervix. Computer guidance controls (1) how far the pellet goes into the applicator to precisely target the location of tumors, and (2) how long the pellet stays in the applicator to release its radiation dose.
With a few well-placed catheters, HDR brachytherapy can provide a very precise treatment for cervical cancer that takes only a few minutes.
Some of the potential benefits of high-dose rate brachytherapy include the following:
- A treatment time of several days, instead of five to seven weeks for external beam radiation therapy (EBRT). Depending on the type and stage of cancer, HDR brachytherapy may be combined with other treatments, such as TomoTherapy® or intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), which can vary treatment times.
- Radiation beams are precisely targeted inside the cervix, controlling the location and intensity, and offering excellent precision and maximum dose concentration.
- Radiation exposure to healthy cervical tissue and nearby organs is minimized or eliminated, reducing gastrointestinal and sexual function side effects.
At CTCA, we combine high-dose rate brachytherapy with external beam radiation therapy (EBRT) and chemotherapy to treat advanced-stage cervical cancer. Following radiation therapy, we may perform a completion hysterectomy.