OHSU

Brachytherapy

Brachytherapy is a type of radiation treatment for cancer. It is also called internal radiation therapy. In brachytherapy, high-energy material is placed in your body to destroy cancer cells. The material is placed inside the tumor or nearby.   

There are two types of brachytherapy:

  • Permanent brachytherapy (material stays inside your body).
  • Temporary (your doctor removes the material after treatment).

In permanent brachytherapy, leaving material in your body is safe because it produces less radiation as time passes. The low level of radiation is safe for your healthy cells and people around you. 

Brachytherapy for prostate cancer

Permanent brachytherapy is one treatment for prostate cancer. Your doctor places tiny pieces of high-energy material inside your prostate gland. These are called seeds, and treatment is sometimes called seed implantation. Radiation from the seeds kills prostate cancer cells.

If you have seed implantation for prostate cancer, you can probably go home the same day. 

Brachytherapy for female reproductive cancers

Some cancers of the female reproductive system are treated with temporary brachytherapy. They include:

  • Cervical cancer
  • Endometrial cancer
  • Vaginal cancer

You might have external beam radiation before brachytherapy for reproductive cancer. This can shrink the tumor so brachytherapy is more effective. Your radiation oncologist will work with other members of your OHSU healthcare team to decide on the right dose and treatment schedule.

Depending on your cancer and other factors, treatment can take a few minutes or several days. You might go home the same day or stay in the hospital for one night or longer.

Brachytherapy for eye cancer

Brachytherapy for eye cancer uses tiny seeds with high-energy material. Each seed is about the size of a rice grain. The seeds are inside a small gold implant called a plaque.

An eye surgeon places the plaque near the tumor so the radiation kills cancer cells. Implants used to treat eye cancer stay in place for about one week. When treatment is over, the doctor removes the plaque

Depending on your cancer type and radiation dose, you might go home the day of treatment or stay in the hospital for a few days.

Cancers Treated Using Brachytherapy