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Delivering treatment directly to the tumor
Brachytherapy is the placement of radioactive sources in or just next to a tumor. The word brachytherapy comes from the Greek “brachy” meaning “close or short distance.” During brachytherapy, the radioactive sources may be left in place permanently (low-dose rate/LDR brachytherapy) or only temporarily (high-dose rate/HDR brachytherapy), depending upon your cancer.
Brachytherapy can be given in two different ways – as intracavitary and interstitial treatment. With intracavitary treatment, the radioactive sources are put into a space near where the tumor is located, such as the cervix, vagina or windpipe. With interstitial treatment, the radioactive sources are put directly into the tissues, such as the prostate.
Brachytherapy procedures may require anesthesia, a surgical procedure and a brief stay in the hospital. Patients with permanent implants may have a few restrictions at first and then can quickly return to their normal activities. Temporary implants are left inside your body for minutes, hours or days. While the radioactive sources are in place, you stay in a private room. While radiation is present in your system, doctors, nurses and other medical staff continue to take care of you, but they take special precautions to limit their exposure to radiation.