Brachytherapy is a form of radiotherapy and considered an advanced form of mesothelioma treatment. This therapy has been in use for more a century; doctors use it in some circumstances as an alternative to external radiotherapy and surgical treatment.
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Brachytherapy is a type of radiation therapy that involves the implantation of tiny radioactive rods in or near tumors. It is most commonly used to treat cervical, breast and prostate cancers, as well as cancers of the head and neck, but has also been used to treat mesothelioma.
An advantage of brachytherapy is that the radioactive rods placed inside tumors (often referred to as “seeds”) emit radiation across short distances of approximately one centimeter. This treatment allows for the delivery of a strong and highly-concentrated dose of radiation directly to tumor cells, but causes very little damage to surrounding healthy cells and tissue. Because of this, healthy tissue is spared and side effects are less severe.
Types of Mesothelioma Brachytherapy
Brachytherapy may be temporary or permanent:
Temporary – For temporary brachytherapy, the radioactive material is placed near the tumor for a pre-determined length of time and then removed. Your oncologist will determine whether it is to be administered in high-dose or low-dose.
Permanent – Permanent brachytherapy, also known as seed implantation, involves the placing of tiny radioactive pellets or seeds in or near a tumor and leaving them there permanently. The pellets are minuscule, usually about the size of a grain of rice. After several weeks, the radioactivity diminishes and the now harmless seeds remain in the body. There is no danger associated with the remaining pellets.
Few side effects occur with brachytherapy though the patient may experience pain, bruising, and swelling at the treatment site. Most side effects last for only a few days and are mild in comparison to external beam radiation.
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