Brachytherapy is a method of using radiation to treat cancer by placing radioactive sources (“seeds”) inside or very near to a tumor. These seeds are smaller than a grain of rice and treat tumors from the inside out. Brachytherapy results in more radiation delivered directly to your tumor and less radiation to healthy tissue.
Why choose the UT Health San Antonio Cancer Center for brachytherapy?
Patients throughout South Texas and beyond choose the UT Health Cancer Center for our:
- Experience: We began as a radiation therapy center in 1974 and continue to be a leader in the treatment of cancer through radiation therapies, such as brachytherapy. Our clinical trials are yielding promising results every day.
- Research and innovation: We are focused on saving lives, turning new discoveries in the laboratory into successful treatments in the clinic. This includes advancements in high dose rate (HDR) brachytherapy, which is now commonly used to treat many types of cancer.
- Leadership: We are the only cancer center recognized by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in Central and South Texas.
When is brachytherapy used?
At the cancer center, our team specializes in brachytherapy to treat:
Brachytherapy may be used alone or in combination with external radiation treatments, such as Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT) and Image-Guided Radiation Therapy (IGRT).
How does brachytherapy work?
The term “brachy” (Greek) refers to short. Because this is an internal therapy, the radiation only has to travel a very short distance. That means a higher dose of radiation can be delivered compared to other methods.
Brachytherapy can be delivered in two ways:
- Intracavitary treatment: Radioactive seeds are placed near where the tumor is located, such as the cervix, if treating cervical cancer.
- Interstitial treatment: Radioactive seeds are put directly into the cancerous tissue, such as the within the prostate.
What is the difference between LDR and HDR brachytherapy?
The continues to lead in the research, planning, and delivery of brachytherapy, including:
- Low dose rate (LDR) brachytherapy: Small amounts of radiation are given over a long period of time. Radioactive sources are placed in small tubes or needles and implanted into the tumor.
- High dose rate (HDR) brachytherapy: Large amounts of radiation are given over a short period of time (five minutes to 30 minutes). The source and tubes or needles are then removed, and the patient is discharged.
The UT Health Cancer Center: leaders in brachytherapy for prostate cancer
The UT Health Cancer Center is highly regarded for our treatment of early stage prostate cancer using brachytherapy. During this treatment:
- Doctors take an image of your prostate using ultrasound
- You may be placed under anesthesia so that you aren't aware during the procedure and won't feel pain
- The image is used to guide the placement of up to 100 or more radioactive seeds into your prostate. The seed implants may be permanent (low dose rate) or temporary (high dose rate).
- A surgical incision is not needed. Instead, the radioactive seeds (which are smaller than a grain of rice) are contained in thin needles that are passed into the area, such as the prostate gland through the skin between the scrotum and anus (perineum).
- The needles are seen in the ultrasound image on the monitor and are accurately guided to their final position.
What are the side effects of brachytherapy?
Long-term side effects with brachytherapy are unusual but some patients may have more urinary frequency or some burning with urination. After your procedure, you may feel some pain and swelling where the radiation needles were inserted. You may find relief by placing an ice pack over the area or taking acetaminophen (like Tylenol).
If you receive permanent implants, you may need to take some precautions after you leave your treatment, particularly if you plan to be around young children or pregnant women. Your radiation oncologist at the cancer center will make sure you have all the information you need.
Make an appointment
To request an appointment or to make a referral to one of our physicians, please call 210-450-1000.
To speak with a radiation oncology patient care coordinator, please call 210-450-1016.
For information about cancer treatment or cancer trials, please call our Cancer Information Line: 1-800-340-2872.