HDR brachytherapy

Also known as: High-dose-rate brachytherapy

Depending on the technique, radiation therapy dose from brachytherapy can be delivered with one of two different dose rates – high-dose-rate (HDR) or low-dose-rate (LDR). With HDR brachytherapy, radiation dose is deposited at a faster rate. LDR brachytherapy emits radiation at a slower rate. HDR brachytherapy involves the temporary placement of a tiny, powerful radioactive source, which is housed in a lead-lined robotic device called a high-dose-rate remote afterloader.

During the treatment, the computer-controlled robotic afterloader delivers the radiation source to the tumor through a small hollow tube called a catheter, which has been placed in the appropriate location in the body. This procedure may require anesthesia and a surgical procedure. Your doctor and team will control this treatment from outside the treatment room, monitoring you as the therapy is being given. Radiation is usually delivered in multiple doses, once or twice per day, or once or twice per week, for 10 to 30 minutes per treatment. With HDR brachytherapy, the radiation oncologist and computer software control the location and duration of source delivery, making it possible to tailor the dose precisely to the tumor. The catheter(s) and radioactive source are placed temporarily inside the body and are removed after the appropriate amount of radiation has been delivered. Most patients feel little discomfort during brachytherapy. If the radioactive source is held in place with an applicator, you may feel discomfort from the applicator. There are medications that can relieve this discomfort. There is no residual radioactivity when the treatment is completed. You may be able to go home shortly after the procedure, resuming your normal activities with few restrictions. Common indications for HDR brachytherapy include partial breast irradiation, treatment of cervix and uterine cancers, and for selected men with prostate cancer.

Providence Radiation Oncology Services offers a comprehensive approach to cancer care with a wide range of world-class cancer therapy modalities implemented by a multidisciplinary team of experts. Our extraordinary team, coupled with state-of-the-art technology, creates the environment for superior treatment outcomes for cancer patients.

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Despite the fact that about a third of all cancer patients receive radiation therapy in some form, this invisible and painless procedure remains the least understood common cancer treatment. Providence Cancer Center News recently sat down with Christine Cha, M.D., Jeannie Louie, M.D., and Richard Rodriguez, R.T., to find out why radiation matters today.

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