What is brachytherapy?

Brachytherapy is a form of radiation therapy where energy waves or particles can be used to fight cancer. Radiation can damage and kill the cancer cells in the body, but it can also damage healthy cells. Though healthy cells can usually recover from the treatment, unlike the cancer cells, doctors will often try and shield the healthy cells from the radiation.

Brachytherapy is performed with the radiation sources placed inside the body, so it is often referred to as internal radiation. Brachytherapy may minimize negative effects on healthy cells by allowing doctors to place the radiation in more specific parts of the body, near the tumor or even within the tumor itself.

There are two types of brachytherapy: permanent implants and nonpermanent implants. he permanent implants, often referred to as seeds, remain in the body, but the radioactive element inside the seeds breaks down and dissipates over time. In nonpermanent implants the radioactive material is held in place with an applicator, often in a body cavity, such as the esophagus. The material can be held in place for a matter of minutes, hours or possibly days depending on the dosage of radiation to be administered.

Cancers that are commonly treated with brachytherapy include:

  • Breast cancer
  • Cervical cancer
  • Endometrial cancer
  • Head and neck cancers
  • Lung cancer
  • Prostate cancer

For more information contact Courtney Britton, librarian at Cancer Services of Greater Baton Rouge at (225) 927-2273, cbritton@cancerservices.org , or visit the Education Center at 550 Lobdell Ave., Baton Rouge.


Brachytherapy – NCI


Brachytherapy – ASTRO


This column is presented as a service by Cancer Services of Greater Baton Rouge.