What is brachytherapy and is it expensive?


Quick Answer

Brachytherapy is a type of radiation therapy in which radioactive seeds are placed inside the body, as stated by Mayo Clinic. Although a variety of factors affect cost, a 2012 study of prostate cancer treatments reveals that brachytherapy is cheaper than external beam radiation therapy and surgery, according to WebMD.

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Full Answer

The 2012 prostate cancer treatment study collected data from more than 137,000 National Cancer Institute Medicare records of men with prostate cancer from 1991 to 2007, as confirmed by WebMD. Patients paid an average of around $2,500 a year for brachytherapy compared to around $6,400 for external beam radiation therapy and $3,200 for a prostactonomy.

Brachytherapy allows doctors to give cancer patients higher doses of radiation in a more focused area of the body, according to Mayo Clinic. It may cause fewer side effects and generally has a shorter treatment time than external beam radiation. Doctors perform the procedure by placing radioactive materials in a body cavity, such as a windpipe or vagina, using a cylindrical device, or they may place the material directly into the body tissue. The process can take several minutes to several days depending on the dosage, and some treatments involve permanently placing the radioactive seeds inside the patient. Side effects vary depending on the treatment area and may include swelling and tenderness at the site of radiation.

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