Brachytherapy itself is not an isolated cancer treatment. Rather it is a component of the process of treatment of cancer. Brachytherapy excels over many of the other procedures of cancer treatment in the aspect that it is essentially painless and takes approximately fifteen minutes to complete. This also increases the chances of the patient being able to retain her breast. Also, the number of sessions required is comparatively less, with only nine vital sessions over a period of 120 hours. Brachytherapy can be used for the treatment of many different types of cancers for example HDR Prostate Brachytherapy for cancer in the prostate gland, brachytherapy for breasts, lung, esophageal and gynecologic cancers, anal and rectal tumors, sarcomas, and cell mutations of the head and neck regions.
During each session, which must be governed by a board certified radiation oncologist, tiny tubes are inserted into the affected area. To be more specific, these supple tubes are called plastic catheters. Ultrasound imaging is used for determination of the locations. These catheters are then joined terminal-wise to a brachytherapy machine set to rates denoting high doses. The catheters that have been inserted into the affected area now convey radiation directly to the target site. The conveyance is done by the placement of grains of radioactive sources around the tumor, or in the tumor. Thus this remains true to the other name by which brachytheraphy is known, which is temporary radiation implant. The short distance to which the intensity of radiation is affected gives it its name which is Greek for short.
Another manner of giving brachytherapy is the insertion of a single catheter which can be inflated like a balloon. The radioactive seed is placed in the inflated part of the catheter, and it thus affects the surrounding area in a spherical manner.
This the process narrows down its projection surface to the target cells by the method of internal radiation treatment. This therefore has several advantages including the fact that relatively little radiation will be transmitted to surrounding areas that are healthy. Brachytherapy is most effective for target areas characterized by tumors in the high dose regions, which are the places closest to the catheters, and therefore closest to the sources of the Iridium-192. However healthy tissue falling under the high dosage region could cause more harm than benefit. Also, tissue can be temporarily or permanently scarred as a result of the entry and exit point of the catheters, while healthy tissue falling under the high dose zone could also firm or thicken unnaturally. The latter, called scar tissues, could also affect the skin tissues on the surface thereby causing scars.
However, recent developments in medical science and fine-tuning of treatment processes by extensive research have allowed the diminishing of risks to a minimal level. Computerized dosimeter is able to sense and decrease unwarranted for high doses while measuring the volume of the treatment. It also allows for elimination of the particular sources from the surfaces of the skin.
Yet, even modern fine tuning cannot make claims for technological errors. Sometimes it has been seen the catheter itself faces decay from the radiation. This allows for fatty acids to mingle with the tissue of the affected area and thereby give rise to irritation. Often, it shows the beginnings of an infection when the area becomes inflamed, swollen, and often tender. However it differs from any regular infection by the fact that this happens nearly four to twelve months after the treatment. An infection would have taken place immediately, or within weeks. This side effect is commonly known as fat nerosis.