Brachytherapy is a form of radiotherapy where a sealed radioactive source is placed inside or next to the area requiring treatment. The radioactive source is inserted and transported inside the body using a computer controlled wire driven through small flexible tubes. The proximity of the radioactive source to the treatment site means a high dose of radiation can be delivered whilst limiting the dose to the surrounding tissue. At UCLH the Brachytherapy suite consists of an operating theatre and the high dose rate (HDR) Flexitron machine. It is located within the Radiotherapy Department in the Basement of the Main Hospital Building.
Brachytherapy can be given as a individual treatment or in addition to External Beam Radiotherapy commonly given on a linear accelerator (linac). The number of treatments required can vary from a single treatment up to 12; depending on the area being treated.
The type of Brachytherapy being delivered determines whether an inpatient stay is required or if an anaesthetic (local to the area for treatment or general) is needed. Before we are able to give an anaesthetic, a Pre-Assessment appointment is required to assess suitability; this will be arranged by the Brachytherapy team.
After HDR Brachytherapy there are no radiation restrictions in place as the radioactive source has been removed. The Brachytherapy team will advise you on how best to look after yourself following the procedure.
All treatments start in the Brachytherapy suite where an applicator is inserted in order to deliver the treatment. Usually patients will require a CT or MRI scan in order that we can accurately plan the treatment therefore. Brachytherapy can take a long time to plan as the high dose of treatment requires submillimetre accuracy
UCLH currently offers Brachytherapy for a number of different treatment sites, including:
- Prostate (HDR only)
- Vaginal Vault
- Intrauterine– for Cervical cancer
- Oesophageal and Bronchial
- Superficial (skin)