Brachytherapy is the practice of placing radioactive material inside the body for the purpose of killing cancer cells. In low-dose rate brachytherapy, the radioactive material remains in the patient’s body and delivers radiation to the tumor over several days.
High-dose rate brachytherapy delivers a stronger dose of radiation, during one or more individual treatment sessions. The source of radiation is removed from the patient after each session.
Intracavitary brachytherapy is commonly used to treat patients with cervical and uterine cancers by placing a radioactive source (such as cesium-137 or iridium-192) in a surgical or body cavity, near the area that requires treatment. This option delivers high doses of radiation to the tumor while having minimal impact on the surrounding healthy tissue.
Interstitial brachytherapy is the surgical implantation of radioactive needles or seeds directly into a tumor. It is widely used to treat cancers of the breast and prostate. The radioactive source may remain in the body permanently, even after all of the radiation has been given off.
While less than one-third of all radiation therapy facilities in the United States perform clinical brachytherapy, radiation oncologists at USC have been leaders in developing innovative clinical brachytherapy techniques since the 1970’s. In 2012, through the joint efforts of the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, Keck Hospital of USC, Los Angeles General Medical Center and Doheny Eye Hospital, special brachytherapy programs are being utilized for managing the most difficult, persistent and recurrent cancers.