What is LDR brachytherapy?
Low-dose rate (LDR) brachytherapy is a type of internal radiation therapy that delivers low 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, LDR brachytherapy can provide a precise treatment over several hours. With LDR brachytherapy, radiation is delivered at a continuous rate over one to seven days. Patients receiving this treatment will stay at the hospital overnight so the catheter can remain in place throughout the treatment’s duration.
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.
LDR brachytherapy for prostate cancer
Because the prostate gland is located close to the bladder and rectum, it is important for radiation treatment to be tightly focused on the prostate to avoid serious side effects. LDR brachytherapy offers a fast, precise way to administer prostate cancer radiation therapy for some patients.
Depending on the type and stage of prostate cancer, brachytherapy may be combined with other treatments, such as Calypso® or hormone therapy, which can vary treatment times.
LDR brachytherapy is applicable to virtually all stages of localized prostate cancer. In many cases, brachytherapy is a promising alternative to surgical removal of the prostate.