Brachytherapy comes from the Greek word ‘brachys’ meaning ‘short distance’. It is a form of internal radiation therapy in which a radiation source is placed inside or next to the area requiring treatment. The source produces gamma-rays, which have the same effect on cancer cells as X-rays.

Brachytherapy is commonly used as an effective treatment for cervical, prostate, breast, and skin cancer and can also be used to treat tumours in many other body sites. It has the advantage of allowing the radiation oncologist to use a higher total dose of radiation to treat a smaller area in a shorter time than is possible with external beam radiation therapy.

There are two forms of brachytherapy:

1. Permanent or ‘Lose Dose Rate’ (LDR)
Tiny radioactive seeds or pellets are placed in or near the tumour using a specialised delivery device. Over several months, the radioactivity level of the implant decreases to zero. The seeds remain in the body, with no lasting effect on the patient. In Australia, LDR brachytherapy is most commonly used to treat localised prostate cancer. Within a day or two of the procedure, most men are able to resume their normal activities.

Note that we do not currently offer LDR brachytherapy at any of our treatment facilities, but we plan to implement it in the near future.

2. Temporary or ‘High Dose Rate’ (HDR)
High dose rate brachytherapy is similar to low dose rate brachytherapy, but the delivery of the radiation is different.

A tiny radioactive seed is placed next to or inside the cancerous area for a specific amount of time before being completely withdrawn.

The radioactive source used delivers a more intense but short-lived dose of radiation during each treatment session.

HDR brachytherapy is used for more high-risk but localised prostate cancers and gynaecological cancers. HDR brachytherapy is often given in conjunction with external beam radiation therapy.

What is involved?
Some brachytherapy procedures require sedation or a general anaesthetic in order to insert the radiation applicators. Before the brachytherapy procedure begins, an intravenous line may be inserted into your arm or hand to deliver anaesthetic medications. Following HDR treatment in the Department of Radiation Oncology, patients may be transferred to the Day Medical Procedure Unit. Brachytherapy patients return home the same day.


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Genesis Logo Small.pngGenesisCare is Australia’s leading provider of radiation oncology, cardiology and sleep treatments. We exist to fill the treatment gap for the biggest disease burdens in Australia - cancer and heart care - in an environment of substantial unmet demand from an ageing population. Click here to learn more