Radiation Oncology


Brachytherapy, also called internal radiation, is the process of implanting radioactive material inside the body, onto or near a tumor. With this mode of therapy, a powerful dose of radiation can be delivered directly to the tumor with less damage to the surrounding healthy tissue.

Examples of Brachytherapy

  • High dose rate (HDR) brachytherapy for lung, breast and gynecologic cancers
  • Prostate seed implants
  • Brachytherapy for eye tumors

What Is High Dose Rate (HDR) Brachytherapy?

In HDR brachytherapy, a tiny radioactive source is passed through an implanted catheter. This source is controlled by a computer, which programs it to stay for various lengths of time in specified locations within the catheter in order to deliver precise doses of radiation. This system may be used for lung, breast and gynecologic tumors and is done on an outpatient basis, typically over a period of 1-5 days.

What Are Prostate Seed Implants?

Prostate seed implants are used to treat localized prostate cancer. A Urologist and Radiation Oncologist perform the procedure together. With this procedure, between 70 and 150 radioactive seeds (each about the size of a grain of rice) are implanted in the prostate gland. This technique allows higher doses of radiation to be delivered to the tumor site while limiting dose to surrounding normal tissues.

Before treatment, an ultrasound is performed to ensure that the prostate is not obstructed and is within the appropriate size range for implantation. This scan also assists the radiation oncologist in determining how many seeds are needed and where to place them. The actual implant procedure is performed on an outpatient basis, under general anesthesia and with ultrasound guidance. The patient is usually able to return to normal activity within 48 hours, although he may continue to have soreness and urinary symptoms for some time afterward.