Brachytherapy: An effective form of radiation therapy
April 4th 2006
Brachytherpy (pronounced bray-kee-ther-uh-pee) is a Greek term; "brachy"
means short distance and "therapy" means treatment. It is the form of
radiation therapy that places radioactive materials, or sources, in or
just next to a tumor or body site at risk for harboring tumor cells.
This is in contrast to external beam radiation therapy, which is
delivered via a linear accelerator at a distance from the tumor, outside
the personís body.
During brachytherapy, the radioactive source or sources are left in
place temporarily or permanently, depending on the type of cancer. To
position the source or sources accurately, special small tubes called
catheters or applicators are used. Also, depending on the area being
treated, people may undergo several treatments over a number of days or
There are two main categories of brachytherapy: intracavitary treatment
and interstitial treatment. With the former, the radioactive source or
sources are inserted into a space near the tumorís location, such as the
cervix, the vagina, the esophagus, or the windpipe. With the latter
form of brachytherapy, the radioactive material is implanted directly
into the tissues, such as the prostate. In fact, a prostate seed
implant is an example of an interstitial implant.