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Brachytherapy is a system of delivering radiation to a specific part of the body by placing radioactive material (sometimes called seeds) directly into a tumor or close to it. This exact placement avoids harming tissues surrounding the tumor. The word Brachy means short, meaning the radiation travels a short distance to its target.

Washington University radiation oncologists are the primary providers of brachytherapy. They team up with medical oncologists and surgeons in :

  • Joanne Knight Breast Health Center (Endocrine and Breast Cancer)
  • Ear, Nose and Throat Center (Head and Neck Cancer)
  • Women’s Health Center (Gynecologic Cancer)
  • Urologic Surgery Center (Prostate Cancer)
  • Ophthalmology (Eye Tumors)

    In addition to tumor control in cancer treatment, brachytherapy is also used in the Heart and Vascular Center for the medical management of coronary artery disease.

    Our radiation oncologists and interventional cardiologists team up to use vascular brachytherapy to prevent restenosis following stmt implantation. Click here to go to Using Radiation to Prevent Restenosis Following Angioplasty

    How does Brachytherapy work ?

    Tiny seeds (which are smaller than a grain of rice) containing radioactive Iodine-125 are placed directly into the middle of the cancer where they give off radiation for approximately one year. They are placed either through tiny holes in the skin or surgically, depending on the intended delivery site.

    The radiation is emitted short distances outward, unlike external beam radiotherapy, where radiation must pass through normal tissue in order to reach the tumor The radioactivity of the pellets slowly decays during the months after the operation, and there are few long-term risks associated with this treatment, either to the patient or his family members.

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    Copyright 2015 Washington University School of Medicine