Also known as "internal radiation therapy", brachytherapy is a form of radiation treatment that targets a tumor or the area around the tumor with concentrated radiation that is implanted directly at the affected region of the body. Often used for mesothelioma patients, it kills fewer healthy cells than traditional radiation and also causes fewer side effects.
Brachytherapy for mesothelioma cancer patients is often used after surgery to remove any remaining asbestos cancer or may be used in tandem with chemotherapy. There are two types of brachytherapy that mesothelioma doctors generally consider.
- Permanent - This kind of treatment involves the implantation of tiny seeds of radioactive material in or near the tumor. With permanent brachytherapy, the seeds remain in the body even after they stop emitting radiation.
- Temporary - With this type of brachytherapy, radioactive seeds or rods are implanted for a pre-determined amount of time and are then removed. The length of time depends on the tumor and what the doctor is hoping to accomplish.
Like traditional external beam radiation, brachytherapy is a mesothelioma treatment generally performed in an outpatient setting, and though the procedure may sound complicated, it takes less than an hour to complete from start to finish.
When the patient enters the treatment room, he is given a light sedative and the area where the seeds will be implanted is numbed. Next, the seeds are inserted with a catheter or needle. The radiologist generally uses a CT scan or other imaging device to help him determine where to implant the seeds. After all is complete, the patient is generally free to return home.
Side effects of brachytherapy may include swelling, bruising, and mild pain. Individuals who recently underwent brachytherapy are advised to stay away from others who may be most susceptible to the negative effects of radiation, including pregnant women and small children.