What Is Brachytherapy?

Brachytherapy, also called internal radiation therapy, is a procedure in which radioactive implants are inserted into the body or in or near a tumor, states Mayo Clinic. This type of radiation therapy allows doctors to give high doses of radiation to specific areas of the body.

Intracavitary radiation and interstitial radiation are the two main types of brachytherapy. The radioactive implants are typically in the form of pellets, seeds and ribbons. Intracavitary radiation involves the use of a radioactive source placed inside the body through the rectum or uterus. In interstitial radiation, the radioactive source is not placed in the body but around or in the cancer. Some implants are permanent, while others are removed after a certain period of time, explains the American Cancer Society.

High-dose-rate brachytherapy is used to treat patients for a few minutes with a high dose of the radioactive implant. With low-dose-rate brachytherapy, the implants stay in the patient for one day or permanently. Permanent radioactive implants stop giving off radiation over time and are not usually removed. Patients who undergo brachytherapy may give off a small amount of radiation, states the American Cancer Society. Bodily fluids are not radioactive, but patients can still be asked to avoid contact with pregnant women and children.