Brachytherapy – High Dose Rate (HDR)


Brachytherapy – High Dose Rate (HDR) Overview

HDR Brachytherapy is a powerful form of internally delivered radiation therapy that destroys many types of cancers including skin, cervical, prostate and breast. HDR Brachytherapy can be used as a standalone treatment or after a tumor has been surgically removed to eliminate any remaining cancerous cells.

With HDR Brachytherapy, between one and 20 slim plastic tubes called catheters are implanted into the tumor site. During treatment, a computer-controlled machine sends the small radioactive seeds down each catheter to deliver radiation at multiple depths and varying times. The overall treatment time at the tumor site is 10 to 20 minutes. The seeds are then removed so that no radioactive material remains in the patient’s body. Depending on the type of cancer being treated, a high-dose rate treatment plan may require one session or multiple sessions over a course of up to five days.

In Interstitial HDR Brachytherapy, often used for prostate cancer, the radiation is delivered directly into tissue. In Intracavitary HDR Brachytherapy, often used for breast, cervical and vaginal cancers, the radiation is delivered to the tumor from the cavity left by the recently removed tumor. In Episcleral Brachytherapy, the radiation source is attached to the eye to treat melanoma inside the eye.

HDR Brachytherapy Benefits

  • Extremely precise radiation therapy delivered internally
  • Used alone or applied after surgery to help prevent recurrence of cancer
  • Convenient treatments
  • Usually pain-free
  • Minimizes risk of common short- and long-term side effects
Brachytherapy – High Dose Rate (HDR)

How Does Brachytherapy – High Dose Rate (HDR) Work?

Brachytherapy targets tumors with radiation delivered through a catheter. Since the radiation does not pass through healthy tissue to treat the tumor, it is extremely precise and enables your Radiation Oncologist to target the radiation directly at the tumor site with less risk of damage to surrounding healthy tissue.

There are two types of Brachytherapy: High-Dose Rate (HDR) and Low-Dose Rate (LDR). The difference is the rate at which the radiation is delivered.

Interstitial HDR Brachytherapy is used to treat prostate tumors, while intracavitary HDR Brachytherapy is used to treat breast and cervical cancers. HDR Brachytherapy can also be used to treat skin and eye malignancies.

Treatment Process

With High Dose Rate (HDR) Brachytherapy, between one and 20 slim plastic tubes called catheters are implanted into the tumor site to deliver radiation from within the body. During treatment, a computer-controlled machine sends tiny radioactive pellets down each catheter to deliver radiation at multiple depths and varying times. The overall treatment time at the tumor site is 10 to 20 minutes. The pellets are then removed so that no radioactive material remains in the patient’s body. Depending on the type of cancer being treated, a high-dose rate treatment plan may require one session or multiple sessions over a course of up to five days. Patients are free to resume normal activity right after each treatment.

HDR Brachytherapy is relatively pain-free, with patients reporting only mild levels of discomfort during the insertion and removal of the catheters and devices used to deliver the radiation source to the tumor site.

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