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Radiation Oncology

High-Dose Rate Brachytherapy (HDR)

HDR brachytherapy is a type of internal radiation therapy that delivers high doses of radiation from a radioactive pellet - similar to a small bead - moving close to, or inside, the tumor(s) in the body. Radioactive pellets are typically inserted using a special applicator. This technique ensures the maximum radiation dose is delivered directly to cancerous tissues, while minimizing exposure to the surrounding healthy tissue.

High-dose rate (HDR) brachytherapy offers a faster way to deliver radiation treatments for some patients. For many cancer types, the entire HDR brachytherapy treatment is delivered over three to five doses or days, instead of five to seven weeks for external beam radiation therapy (EBRT). Depending on the type and stage of cancer, HDR brachytherapy may be combined with external beam radiation, which can vary treatment times.

Because cancer often affects organs that are essential to daily functioning, it is important for radiation treatment to be tightly focused on tumors to avoid serious side effects. To facilitate HDR brachytherapy treatment, hollow applicators are inserted by our doctors directly into tumors or body cavity to deliver a precise, three-dimensional dose of radiation. Before each treatment, physicians check the position of the applicators with millimeter precision.

Computer guidance controls how far the pellet goes into the applicators and how long the pellet stays in the applicators to release its radiation dose. HDR brachytherapy can provide an extremely precise treatment for cancer in just a few minutes and usually does not require any sedation. This type of radiation can be used for breast cancer and gynecological malignancies.

Click on the following links to see how each of the brachytherapy devices work: