HDR brachytherapy

Also known as: High-dose-rate brachytherapy, Internal radiation

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 inside the body. LDR brachytherapy releases radiation at a slower rate. HDR brachytherapy involves the temporary placement of a tiny, radioactive source near the tumor.

Prostate HDR brachytherapy

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in men in the United States. New methods of treatment cause fewer side effects than older methods. These treatments have excellent survival rates. Depending on the stage of disease and your general health. Learn more ›

For prostate cancer patients, the implant is placed in or near the tumor. You will be getting high-dose rate brachytherapy (HDR) delivered through a system of catheters (a small, flexible tube). These catheters will be placed in the operating room.

Advantages of HDR:
  • Consistent, high-quality prostate implants through improved dose tailoring and real-time computer planning
  • Better dose coverage improves cure rates and reduces side effects
  • Eliminates LDR radiation seed migration since the HDR implant is temporary
  • Eliminates the need for patients and families to use radiation safety precautions since there are no radioactive seeds
  • Extends eligibility to men with extraprostatic extension (stage T3a) or seminal vesicle invasion (stage T3b), thanks to sophisticated computer planning and flexibility
  • Can eliminate or reduce the need for extended androgen therapy and its subsequent side effects

Breast HDR brachytherapy

After breast cancer surgery, radiation treatments help prevent the breast cancer from coming back. A catheter may be placed in the breast for the duration of treatment to allow treatment delivery. Breast Brachytherapy means placing radiation sources inside next to a cancer, or inside an area that may contain remaining cancer after surgical removal of the tumor. This allows the doctor to target only the part of the breast where the tumor was located rather than the whole breast.

Cervix and uterine/brachytherapy

During the HDR procedure, the physician places an applicator or catheters near or in the cancer, in the vagina, cervix, or uterus, which allows a source of radiation to deliver highly focused radiation to target areas while minimizing dose to nearby tissues. This technique has been shown to maximize cancer control and improve outcomes in appropriate patients.

How it works

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.

Benefits of HDR brachytherapy

HDR was developed to reduce risk of cancer recurrence while shortening the amount of time it takes to get radiation treatment. HDR also limits the dose of radiation (and associated side effects) to surrounding normal tissue.

Most patients feel little discomfort during brachytherapy. 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.

During 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.