Brachytherapy is a minimally invasive procedure involving a localized and precise radiation therapy, used for treatment of cancer. The therapy involves placement of tiny permanent radioactive seeds inside or next to the area of treatment.
The term derives its origin from the ancient Greek words denoting short distance (brachy) and treatment (therapy). Brachytherapy is also commonly referred to as internal radiation therapy or seed implant therapy.
Brachytherapy is commonly used as an independent line of treatment. However, in cases where there is a higher risk of the cancer spreading, it can also be used together with a shortened course of external beam radiotherapy.
According to a study reported at the American Society of Clinical Oncology 2004 Annual Meeting, Brachytherapy used as a treatment method for prostate cancer showed 81% to 93% disease-free survival rates. While the success rate is not as high in mesothelioma patients, brachytherapy has found a place in the arsenal of mesothelioma specialists.
In temporary brachytherapy, the radioactive material is placed inside or near a tumour for a specific time and is withdrawn later. This form of brachytherapy can be administered at a low-dose rate (LDR) or a high-dose rate (HDR).
Also known as seed implantation, permanent brachytherapy involves injecting approximately 100 radioactive seeds or pellets in or near the tumor and leaving them at the spot permanently.