Brachytherapy is a type of radiation to treat breast cancer. It is a newer form of radiation therapy, and it is an alternative to traditional radiation treatment for women with breast cancer. The traditional type of radiation therapy is called external beam radiation therapy. With external beam radiation, the entire breast gets radiation, which usually requires daily trips to the hospital for treatments, often 5 days a week for 4-6 weeks. Because traditional radiation has a large field, healthy tissue such as heart and lungs may be exposed to radiation which can cause damage to healthy organs. Brachytherapy is an alternative to traditional radiation. Brachytherapy places the radiation inside the breast. It delivers a higher dose of radiation to a smaller area of the breast over a shorter period of time.
There are three ways that brachytherapy may be delivered to the cancer inside the breast:
1. Multi-catheter internal radiation or interstitial needle-catheter brachytherapy. This uses radioactive seeds to deliver radiation directly to the cancer. The seeds are placed in very small tubes that are stitched into place under the skin, and which are left there for hours or days.
2. Balloon internal radiation or MammoSite. A special tube with l balloon on one end is placed in the breast where the cancer is. During each treatment, a machine places a radioactive seed into the balloon for 5-10 minutes to deliver the radiation. Usually this requires 10 treatments given over 5 days.
3. 3DCRT. This is an experimental approach. First, a special MRI or CAT scan of the breast is performed to determine location of the area to be treated and dose. The radiation is then delivered with a linear accelerator twice a day for a weak.