Cancer Institute A national cancer institute
designated cancer center

High Dose Rate Brachytherapy

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, HDR brachytherapy is typically more convenient because it involves a shortened treatment time, smaller applicators, and can often be done as an outpatient.

Conditions We Treat

Stanford offers HDR brachytherapy to gynecological cancer patients, specifically for cervical, endometrial, and vaginal cancer , Gynecologic HDR brachytherapy treatment devices available at Stanford include: vaginal cylinder, tandem and ovoids, interstitial, and Miami applicator. In addition, patients with other types of tumors can be considered for HDR brachytherapy on an individual basis. These types include:

  • prostate cancer
  • esophageal cancer
  • head and neck cancer
  • pulmonary cancer
  • other local regional tumors

Treatment Process

High-dose rate (HDR) brachytherapy involves placing a protected source of high energy radiation directly within or close to the tumor or the area at risk for recurrence using specially designed applicators. To make the patient more comfortable, pain or relaxing medication is often given prior to the procedure. Once the applicator is placed, imaging is performed to verify placement and for treatment planning. An individualized treatment plan is created and delivered. Following treatment, the applicator is removed.

How the Treatment Process Differs from Low-Dose Brachytherapy

HDR brachytherapy is usually performed as a short series of outpatient procedures. Low-dose rate (LDR) brachytherapy places radioactive materials inside the body for extended periods of time, but the high energy of the source used in HDR brachytherapy (usually Iridium-192) means that doctors can deliver equivalent doses of radiation in a much shorter amount of time.

Features & Advantages

Increased Safety
HDR brachytherapy allows highly localized doses of radiation to be delivered to the tumor quickly and without radiation exposure to a patient’s family or the hospital staff.

Faster Treatment Is More Convenient
Because HDR brachytherapy is performed on an outpatient basis, it is much more convenient and cost-effective than low-dose rate (LDR) brachytherapy, which usually requires a hospital stay.

Fewer Side Effects
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 HDR brachytherapy which does not require prolonged immobility.

Precise Control
The treatment planning system of HDR brachytherapy 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.

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