What is it?

HDR brachytherapy involves placing an intense radioactive source directly into a cancer for a brief period of time. This allows a high dose of radiation to be given to cancer, while minimising the radiation exposure of surrounding normal tissues.

It is usually given in a “fractionated” fashion, where a number of intense treatments (fractions), are given over the course of a couple of days, using catheters or tubes which have been pre-positioned in the cancer. These catheters are removed once all the fractions are administered, but while they are in place allow ready access for the HDR radioactive source to be temporarily loaded directly into the cancer.

Modern HDR brachytherapy is usually given in conjunction with a course of external beam radiotherapy (EBRT), for the curative treatment of prostate cancer.  It is not commonly given alone as “monotherapy”, although this is being done in some overseas centres or, sometimes, in special circumstances.  

HDR brachytherapy can be given before, during or after the course of EBRT.  Usually there is a gap of one or two weeks between the EBRT and the HDR brachytherapy implant.

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