Brachytherapy is the placement of radioactive sources in or just next to a tumor. During brachytherapy, the radioactive sources may be left in place permanently or only temporarily, depending upon your cancer. To position the sources accurately, special catheters or applicators are used. With intracavitary treatment, the radioactive sources are put into a space near where the tumor is located. With interstitial treatment, the radioactive sources are put directly into the tissues. HDR brachytherapy is useful in the treatment of breast, gynecologic, gastrointestinal, and prostate cancers.
Sometimes these procedures require anesthesia and a brief stay in the hospital. Temporary implants are left inside of your body for several hours or days. Devices called high-dose-rate (HDR) remote afterloading machines allow radiation oncologists to complete brachytherapy quickly, in about 10 to 20 minutes. Powerful radioactive sources travel through small tubes called catheters to the tumor for the amount of time prescribed by your radiation oncologist. You may be able to go home shortly after the procedure. Depending on the area treated, you may receive several treatments over a number of days or weeks.