Brachytherapy for Cancer Treatment

Oncologist Dr. Rizwan Nurani lives in Seattle, Washington. Throughout his career, he has taken a wide range of approaches in treating cancers of different kinds. Dr. Rizwan Nurani uses brachytherapy as one modality to treat patients with cancer.

Brachytherapy, also known as internal radiation, is a form of radiative cancer therapy, in which radioactive pellets are placed within the body in proximity to the tumor. “Brachy” is a Greek word meaning short-distance. The technique allows physicians to deliver higher dosages of radiation in a more precise manner, as opposed to conventional radiation therapy, where a machine projects broad beams of X rays at the body. Brachytherapy has fewer associated side effects, and treatments generally require less time.

High-dose rate (HDR) brachytherapy begins with the placement of thin catheters into the tumor. These catheters are attached to an HDR afterloader, which holds a single, extremely radioactive pellet of iridium on the end of a wire. A pellet is inserted into each catheter by a computer, with a specific dwell time, or duration, for each. This system allows for precise treatment in only a few minutes. Following a specified series of exposures, the catheters are removed without radioactive seeds being left in the patient’s body.