What is Brachytherapy? What are the Side Effects?

What is brachytherapy? Brachytherapy is a type of radiotherapy method. In brachytherapy, the radioactive source is placed inside the area that needs healing.

What is Brachytherapy?

Brachytherapy is one of the application methods of radiation therapy, that is, radiotherapy, which is used in the treatment of cancer. Radiotherapy by applying a radioactive source to tissues or tumor beds is the basis of treatment. Radioactive resources can be used temporarily or permanently. In case of temporary application, since the source is removed from the patient, there is no radiation scattering and the patient can continue his life comfortably. During the application, there is usually no pain, depending on the form of the application. However, when necessary, the patient can be given painkillers or sedatives.

Brachytherapy Treatment

There are basically two forms of application in brachytherapy.

Brachytherapy applied to the cavities (Intracavitary)

The radioactive material used in the treatment is located in the anatomical cavities around the cancerous cells. It is generally used in uterine, vaginal, cervical and lung cancers.

Brachytherapy applied to tissues (Interstitial)

The radioactive material used is located in the tissue. It is used in soft tissue, breast and prostate cancers.

Methods Used in Brachytherapy

The administered dose is given to the patient in two different ways.

Temporary Brachytherapy

It is a form of brachytherapy in which the radioactive source is not left inside the patient after the application. It is divided into two basic categories related to the rate of the dose to be applied to the tumor.

High Dose Rate (HDR)

The dose to be administered is given in a short time and quickly. It is more widely used than the other. Radiation is given to tumor beds with the help of a catheter. After the treatment, no radioactive source is left in the body.

Low Dose Rate (LDR)

The dose to be administered is longer and slower. Since the application is long-term, painkillers or other drug supplements can be used. Sensitive people are not allowed into the room as there will be radioactive material during the application.

Permanent Brachytherapy

The radioactive material is placed inside or around the tumor. It is also left permanently. After a while, the radioactive seeds whose activity is over, remain inside the body because it does not leave a permanent side effect on the patient. It is frequently used in prostate cancer.

How is Brachytherapy Applied?

The word brachy means close in Greek and brachytherapy represents treatment at close range. As we mentioned above, in the treatment, the resources are placed near or inside the area to be treated. In some cases, high doses may be required to achieve successful results. This may be difficult to obtain externally, as it may also damage normal tissues. That’s why resources are placed in or near the mass with equipments such as cylinders and needles. The spread of radiation is limited. While the tumor is exposed to high doses of radiation, this amount is kept very low in normal tissues and the damage remains minimized. Brachytherapy treatment is applied in different cancer diseases.

After the surgical operation in uterine cancer, it is applied to the vaginal stump area alone or in addition to external treatment, and in advanced stage cervical cancer, directly after external radiation therapy, into the mass or its immediate surroundings by different tools. It can be applied in the esophagus cancer and bronchial cancer, into the cavity (lumen); and it can be applied in prostate cancer and eye tumor with plaques. In addition, it can be applied directly into the mass formed by cancerous cells through needles during surgical operation, such as in head and neck cancers, soft tissue cancer or early-stage breast cancer.

How Does It Feel During Brachytherapy?

There may be a slight feeling of discomfort during insertion of the brachytherapy resources. It can be applied under anesthesia in patients with low pain threshold.

What Are the Benefits of Brachytherapy?

Brachytherapy provides additional doses when it is not possible to give very high doses due to the tolerance doses of the normal tissues in the irradiated area. In this way, the possibility of tumor control increases and the surrounding normal tissues are protected in the best way, thus reducing the possibility of treatment-related side effects.

What Are the Side Effects of Brachytherapy?

In gynecological cases, it can be applied without anesthesia according to the pain threshold level of the individual. This treatment can be applied in the range of 1-5 sessions, depending on the area applied in general and the treatments received in the previous period. It is essential that the treatment be carried out in a very sterile environment. Side effects differ according to the applied areas. The application is generally made in female cancer diseases. However, the side effects that may occur are listed below.

  • Frequent urination due to irritation and infection in the urinary tract
  • Burning while urinating, rarely bleeding
  • Difficulty in defecation, pain, bleeding, especially in individuals with a history of hemorrhoids
  • Tightness and dryness in the vagina
  • Although rare, the possibility of another cancer according to treatment (it may occur 10-15 years after the earliest treatment.)

Side Effects of Brachytherapy

After the procedure, the patient does not emit radiation. There is no problem in physical contact. If urinary tract problems occur, it is recommended to drink plenty of water, use antibiotics, and use urinary antiseptics. Sexual life can continue approximately 4-6 weeks after the treatment. Sexual intercourse is recommended to avoid vaginal stenosis. In case of dryness, basic gels that do not contain hormones can be used. Treatment should be carried out by a professional healthcare team and doctor. At this point, the health institution you choose is also very important. You can contact us via the contact page from the menus to have information about brachytherapy and other treatments.

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