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​Internal radiation therapy

During internal radiation therapy (IRT), radioactive material is placed into a catheter or another implantable device, which carries the radiation directly into or near a tumor. Implanting the device is generally painless, and the implants may be temporary or permanent. A variety of cancers may be treated with IRT (also referred to as brachytherapy), including prostate cancer, cervical cancer, head and neck cancer and gynecological cancers.

What is brachytherapy?

Brachytherapy allows for a precise treatment in only a few minutes. It offers a quicker, more effective type of radiation treatment for some patients than traditional radiation delivered in smaller doses over a longer period of time. 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.

Types of brachytherapy include:

High-dose rate (HDR) brachytherapy: This internal radiation therapy delivers a high-dose of radiation from implants placed close to, or inside, the tumor(s) in the body in a short burst lasting a few minutes. 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 EBRT. Depending on the type and stage of cancer, brachytherapy may be combined with other treatments, which can vary treatment times.

Low-dose brachytherapy (LDR): Also sometimes called permanent seed implants, LDR brachytherapy uses radioactive seeds permanently implanted into the organ. These pellets emit low levels of radiation for several weeks. When this radiation treatment ends, the harmless seeds are left in place permanently. Primarily used to treat prostate cancer, LDR brachytherapy is a one-time procedure performed on an outpatient basis. The procedure itself generally takes about an hour. Brachytherapy offers a quicker type of radiation treatment for some patients. Depending on the type and stage of cancer, brachytherapy may be combined with other treatments, which can vary treatment times.

Civasheet®: This is a flexible, low-dose rate LDR brachytherapy device. Its directional property allows aggressive radiation doses to be given immediately adjacent to healthy, sensitive tissue. It may be an option for patients who have already received the limit of external beam radiation in a particular area of the body, expanding options to some patients with advanced or recurrent disease.