Cancer is a disease that is difficult to cure during the final stages. But modern science has introduced several ways to battle it. One of the procedures that help you kill cancerous cells is brachytherapy. This blog is a comprehensive guide on the brachytherapy procedure, its requirement, and its side effects.
What is Brachytherapy?
Brachytherapy is a treatment method used to treat many cancers and other diseases. In this procedure, the body is exposed to radioactive substances, often known as internal radiation.
In external radiation, machine rotates around you while emitting radiation beams at specified body parts. As opposed to that, brachytherapy involves larger radiation doses with directed delivery of radiation to the affected region. It reduces the possibility of damaging neighbouring healthy tissue. Brachytherapy allows the safe delivery of a higher radiation dose all at once, which can result in a shorter treatment period.
When is Brachytherapy Performed?
Most frequently, doctors recommend chemotherapy to treat cancer. Brachytherapy can be used alone or with chemotherapy or other cancer treatments. For instance, brachytherapy may be performed following surgery to eliminate any remaining cancer cells. External radiation can also be combined with brachytherapy.
How to Prepare for Brachytherapy?
You need to consult a medical professional specializing in radiation to treat cancer before starting brachytherapy. They may prescribe CT scans, MRIs, or X-rays to understand your condition better and design suitable treatment for you. They may also ask for your past medical records, allergies you have, and medications you take. You may be prescribed to take an enema to clear your bowels before the procedure. You may also be asked to fast a few hours before the procedure.
Placement may take place in bodily tissue or a body cavity:
Radiation is administered within a bodily cavity
Intracavity brachytherapy is the term used for this. A radioactive device is inserted into your body cavity during this procedure. Your doctor may insert it into the vagina or the windpipe. The device may be cylindrical and designed to enter a your body . Your radiation therapy team may place the device either manually or with the assistance of computerized equipment. Imaging tests ensure that the gadget is positioned in the correct spot. Images from CT scans or ultrasounds may demonstrate this.
Bodily tissue being exposed to radiation
This type of brachytherapy is called interstitial brachytherapy. Within bodily tissue, the device with radioactive material is inserted. Wires, balloons, needles, and rice-sized seeds are a few tools utilized in interstitial brachytherapy.
The brachytherapy devices are inserted into bodily tissue using various methods. The implant will be placed near the tumor. The kind of brachytherapy used determines how long the implant remains in the body. In High Dose Rate (HDR), the doctor removes the implant after each session. With a Low Dose Rate (LDR), the implant may be left in place for the duration of treatment, or it may be taken out after each session and reinserted for subsequent ones. CT scans, ultrasounds, or other imaging exams may aid in directing the placement of the devices. The pictures assist in ensuring that the treatment is administered correctly.
What Happens During the Procedure?
Occasionally, it is also known as high-dose-rate brachytherapy. It involves shorter sessions. The radioactive substance may be placed within a few seconds to 20 minutes. It remains in your body for a brief period. Over a few days, you may attend one or two sessions per day. You may be given an anesthetic, depending on the procedure. The radiation therapy team installs the radiation device by inserting tubes into the body cavity or tiny needles directly into the malignancy.
During the treatment, the medical team will keep watching the vitals and keeps other important things under check. You may experience some discomfort during the procedure. Inform your care team if you’re uneasy or have any other problems. You won’t emit radiation or be radioactive after the radioactive material is removed from your body. You can carry on with your regular activities .
In some instances, radioactive material is implanted permanently into the body. It is a typical prostate cancer treatment. Usually, the radioactive substance is inserted manually. A diagnostic imaging procedure like an ultrasound or CT scan may be employed to ensure the device is in the proper location. During the process, you may be under anesthesia. Once the radioactive material is in place, you may not experience any pain. Low doses of radiation will initially be emitted by your body from the area being treated. The risk to others is typically minimal.
You may need to restrict the amount of time you spend with children and pregnant women. Over time, the amount of radiation in your body will decrease, and later it will be lifted completely.
What Should You Do After Brachytherapy?
After therapy, you may need to cut back on your activities and take rest. When you are allowed to resume your regular activities, pay attention to the advice of your healthcare practitioner.
You must adhere to the advice given by your provider regarding safe social interaction. For instance, if you have permanent brachytherapy, you may subject other people to radiation for several weeks or months. Despite the low risk of exposure, your healthcare practitioner may advise you to minimize your contact with infants and pregnant women.
What Drawbacks are There to Brachytherapy?
Brachytherapy might result in unfavorable side effects like any other cancer treatment. Most adverse effects subside once treatment is over, although some are persistent or don’t manifest until after completion of the treatment. Before beginning treatment, inquire with your healthcare professional about possible brachytherapy-related effects .
Possible side effects of therapy include soreness, fatigue, erectile dysfunction, headaches, nausea, shortness of breath, and edema, depending upon the location of the treatment.
Brachytherapy exposes healthy tissue to minimally hazardous radiation doses while delivering radiation near a tumor to kill cancer cells. Local tumors, including those in breast, prostate, cervical, and uterine cancer, can be effectively treated by it. If you are having brachytherapy, heed the advice of your medical professional regarding how to take care of yourself and deal with side effects. If you are undergoing brachytherapy alone or in conjunction with another treatment, such as surgery, enquire about the anticipated results.