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Brachytherapy is a treatment in which a protected radiation source is placed directly within or near the tumor site. Brachytherapy is sometimes also called internal radiation therapy. As compared to low-dose rate brachytherapy, high-dose rate (HDR) brachytherapy is typically more convenient because it involves a shortened treatment time, smaller applicators, and can often be done as an outpatient.
Patients who can receive high-dose rate brachytherapy
The Stanford Cancer Center offers HDR brachytherapy for gynecological cancer and prostate cancer. HDR brachytherapy is the most common conformal radiation therapy treatment for prostate cancer and offers the greatest amount of bladder and rectal sparing.
In addition, people with head and neck cancer, pulmonary cancer, and other local regional tumors can be considered for HDR brachytherapy on an individual basis.
Benefits of high-dose rate brachytherapy
HDR brachytherapy allows highly localized doses of radiation to be delivered to the tumor quickly and without radiation exposure to your family or the hospital staff. Because HDR brachytherapy is performed on an outpatient basis, it is much more convenient and cost-effective than LDR brachytherapy, which usually requires a hospital stay.
In addition, LDR brachytherapy often requires patients to remain as still as possible for days at a time, exposing them to risk of deep vein thrombosis. This risk is eliminated with the much more rapid HDR brachytherapy. Finally, the treatment planning system permits doctors to precisely control the amount of radiation delivered to the region, and to limit the amount of radiation that reaches nearby healthy tissue.