High-Dose Rate (HDR) Brachytherapy is an innovative type of internal radiation therapy that delivers high doses of radiation from implants placed close to, or inside, the tumour(s) in the body. This technique allows delivery of maximum radiation dose to the target tissues which harbour cancer, while minimizing exposure to the surrounding healthy tissues.
How is HDR brachytherapy different from low-dose rate brachytherapy?
HDR Brachytherapy is a procedure where the radiation source is placed only for a few to several minutes in the proximity of the target volume. LDR Brachytherapy involves the radioactive sources to be in the proximity of the target volume for days (temporary) or permanently implanted in the target volume.
What kind of cancers can HDR brachytherapy help?
This procedure is commonly available for selected patients with prostate cancer
, breast cancer
, head and neck cancer, skin cancer
and cancers of the cervix
Do patients have to be admitted to the hospital for HDR brachytherapy?
Majority of the HDR Brachytherapy procedures are done as an outpatient and does not require hospitalisation.
How is HDR brachytherapy performed?
For the most part, this procedure is a collaborative effort between the Surgeon
and the Radiation Oncologist
. The surgeon places hollow catheters directly into the target tissue such as the breast, lung and prostate. These catheters are then hooked up to an HDR machine which houses a small radioactive source measuring less than a grain of sand. This source is threaded into the catheter under computer control. The source stays in the catheter for a predetermined period of time allowing a precise amount of radiation dose to be delivered to the target volume. The source subsequently is withdrawn into the machine and the patient is allowed to go home after the procedure.
Are patients radioactive after the HDR brachytherapy procedure?
The answer is no. It is the effects of radiation that will continue within the target volume. Since the radiation source is withdrawn from the patient once the procedure is complete, they are no longer radioactive and are free to continue on with their lives unhindered.
How long does the procedure take?
The actual time that each HDR Brachytherapy procedure
may take is generally between 15 min to 30 min depending on the complexity of the situation.
How many sessions are needed for a given patient?
This depends on each situation. Breast HDR for example is done twice a day for five days and involves 10 sessions of the procedure.
Do patients undergoing HDR brachytherapy need additional treatments for their cancer?
Again, this depends on the situation. This procedure may be combined with surgery, chemotherapy and external beam radiation therapy
for several weeks according to the disease process that is being addressed.
Overall HDR brachytherapy offers a quick and effective way to give radiation treatments for selected patients with cancer
. The key here is for patients to discuss with their oncologists
regarding this option of treatment.