Brachytherapy, a treatment for breast and gynecologic cancer patients, is now available at Valley Medical Center’s Radiation Oncology clinic. High dose radiotherapy (HDR) brachytherapy is a powerful form of internally-delivered radiation therapy that destroys many types of cancers. It can be used as a standalone treatment or after a tumor has been surgically removed to eliminate any remaining cancerous cells. Valley is continually enhancing services, especially cancer treatments like brachytherapy, which used to be available in Seattle only.
What is Brachytherapy?
Brachytherapy narrowly focuses radiation on the cancer cells with less damage to nearby normal cells. How? Radiation is delivered through a temporarily placed applicator, such as a catheter, inside or near the area requiring treatment. The targeted nature of brachytherapy allows for a higher dose of radiation, in a smaller area, over a shorter time span than is possible with external beam therapy. For instance, gynecologic patients typically receive one to three brachytherapy treatments over a one to three week period, compared to conventional radiation therapy of 25 treatments over five to six weeks. Breast cancer patients will typically receive ten treatments (two per day) over a one-week time span compared to 30+ treatments for external breast radiotherapy. With brachytherapy, treatment time is less than ten minutes and minimal (if any) sedation is involved, depending on the technique. Generally, brachytherapy is an outpatient procedure. Brachytherapy has become an essential treatment for managing gynecologic cancers. Recent studies demonstrate that women with gynecologic cancers (cervical, medically-inoperable endometrial cancer and vaginal cancer) may live longer when they receive brachytherapy compared to external beam radiation therapy alone.
Our radiation oncologists can consult with patients about brachytherapy, as well as other cancer treatments at Valley Medical Center, including whether to use the brachytherapy alone or in conjunction with external beam radiation therapy.
For more information about Cancer Services at Valley, visit valleymed.org/life.
Pictured above: Cloud of radiation as it is being distributed.