Brachytherapy is a special form of radiation therapy where a radioactive source is placed beside or inside the tumour. The term brachytherapy was derived from the Greek word “brachy” meaning “short-distance”. Brachytherapy is commonly used, but not limited to, the effective treatment of gynaecological, prostate, breast and skin cancers.
The cause of prostate cancer is unknown, and with its incidence increasing with age, early detection is leading to potentially curable treatment. While many are referred for radical prostatectomy or external beam radiation using conformal techniques there are a number who are suitable for brachytherapy which has the potential advantages of convenience, relatively low morbidity and effectiveness.
LDR brachytherapy is a very targeted treatment using low energy radiation emmitted by Iodine-125. The seeds are no larger than an uncooked grain of rice, and are strategically injected to treat the prostate and minimise dose to surrounding structures. The seeds remain radioactive between three to four months.
Seed brachytherapy offers comparable cure results to both radical prostatectomy (including robotic surgery) and external beam radiation treatment. The choice between which treatment option is most suitable for you will depend on the management of side effects in consultation with your oncologist.
Focal brachytherapy is using the same technique, however is a highly targeted technique as it places the radioactive source into only the tumour itself instead of the whole prostate, preserving the rest of the prostate gland.
The benefits of brachytherapy compared with other forms of radiation treatment include:
Ability to deliver high localised dose
Rapid fall off of dose
Ability to sculpt dose to shape of tumour or organ of interest