HDR Brachytherapy

Brachytherapy treats cancer by placing radioactive sources directly into or next to the area requiring treatment.  This enables clinicians to deliver a high dose with minimal impact on surrounding healthy tissues. 

The Varian High-dose-rate (HDR) brachytherapy is another treatment option offered at the Schwab Family Cancer Center.  This technique uses a relatively intense source of radiation to deliver a therapeutic dose of radiation through temporarily placed needles, catheters, or other applicators.

The source is usually attached to (or embedded in) the end of a wire or cable.  The wire drives catheters into applicators that have previously been placed in the patient.  The source dwells in a preplanned position for a preset time before stepping along the catheter.  This process repeats to create the required dose distribution.

By varying the position and dwell time, the dose can be neatly sculpted to provide a dose geometry conforming to the shape of the target.  The patient typically receives the total dose in a series of 2-10 treatment sessions, also known as fractions.

HDR brachytherapy has proven to be a highly successful treatment for cancers of the cervix, endometrium, and skin.  Brachytherapy offers many benefits including:

  • Highly targeted conformal treatment allowing: 
    - Rapid dose falls off away from the treatment area which results in reduced dose to surrounding healthy tissue and can lead to less potential complications.
    - Higher dose delivery to the tumor can lead to potential increased efficacy.
  • Offers a treatment option for otherwise challenging cases that might otherwise not be treatable.
  • Simplified palliative treatment option for certain cases.