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What are the benefits?

What are the benefits of brachytherapy treatment?

There are a number of benefits of brachytherapy treatment that you may wish to consider when deciding the best treatment option for you.

These benefits may make it a potential treatment option compared to other cancer treatments, such as external beam radiotherapy or surgery.

Brachytherapy:

  • Is very effective in treating cancer, as the radiation is delivered with a high level of accuracy 1
  • Has a minimized risk of side effects, due to the targeted and precise nature of delivering the radiotherapy from inside the body 2
  • Is a minimally invasive technique – i.e. it doesn't involve extensive surgery 1
  • Can be performed on an outpatient basis – avoiding the need for an overnight stay in hospital in many cases 1
  • Requires very short treatment times (typically from 1 to 5 days) 3
  • Has short recovery times (typically 2 to 5 days) – people can usually return to everyday activities very quickly 3
  • Requires fewer visits to the hospital and overnight stays than other options 1,3
  • The benefits of brachytherapy can enable you to get back to your everyday life sooner with minimal disruption.

How does brachytherapy compare to other treatments?


In terms of the effectiveness of treatment, studies have shown that brachytherapy is comparable to external beam radiotherapy and surgery when treating many types of cancer.2 However, studies have shown that patients generally experience fewer side effects after brachytherapy compared with other treatment options.2

For some cancers, more than one type of treatment may be given. Brachytherapy can be used in combination with external beam radiotherapy (EBRT). This can help improve the overall effectiveness of the radiotherapy and limit the side effects from the radiation dose.1

Treatment Effectiveness Safety profile Treatment time
Brachytherapy Effective in treating many types of cancer as the radiation is delivered with a high degree of precision from within the body.1-3 Radiation is precisely delivered from within the body reducing the risk of unnecessary damage to healthy tissues and organs close to the tumor. This helps reduce the risk of potential side effects.1-3 Can be completed in 1-5 days in total; often on an outpatient basis. Quick recovery times (typically 2 to 5 days).3
External beam radiotherapy (EBRT) ERBT is effective in treating a wide variety of cancers, as it can be used almost anywhere in the body.2,4 EBRT delivers radiation from outside the body. The radiation has to travel through healthy tissue to reach the tumor. Therefore more healthy tissues and organs may be exposed to the radiation.2,4 Typically completed over 6-8 weeks of small daily doses. As the radiation passes through healthy tissues, treatment has to be spaced out to limit damage to healthy cells.2,4
Surgery Surgery is very effective in treating tumors that are accessible and have not spread to other parts of the body.5 Surgery only affects the immediate area being operated on. It can cause scarring and often requires longer recovery times whilst the wound heals.5 Surgery is usually a one time procedure. It usually requires a stay in hospital and there is often a period of recovery time.5
Chemotherapy Chemotherapy is effective in treating many types of cancer. As the treatment (drug) is administered to the whole body it is effective in treating cancer that has spread.6 The chemotherapy drug is circulated throughout the whole body. Therefore a range of side effects are often experienced.6 Chemotherapy is usually given in cycles. This allows the cancer cells to be attacked at their most vulnerable time, and gives the body's normal cells time to recover. Each treatment cycle could last minutes, hours, or days, depending on the cancer being treated.6

Find out more about the benefits of brachytherapy for specific types of cancer:

References
1. Patel RR and Arthur DW. Hematology/Oncology Clinics of North America 2006;20(1):97–118.
2. National Cancer Institute. Available at: www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Therapy/radiation; Accessed 2 February 2011
3. Stewart AJ and Jones B. In: Brachytherapy: applications and techniques. Devlin PM (Ed). Philadelphia, PA, LWW. 2007.
4. Lawrence TS, Ten Haken RK, Giaccia A. In: Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology. 8th ed. DeVita VT Jr., Lawrence TS, Rosenberg SA (Eds). Philadelphia, PA, LWW. 2008.
5. MacMillan Cancer Support. Available at: www.macmillan.org.uk/Cancerinformation/Cancertreatment/Treatmenttypes/Surgery/Generalinformation/Whatitisusedfor.aspx. Accessed 2 February 2011.
6. National Cancer Institute. Available at: www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/chemotherapy-and-you/ ; Accessed 2 February 2011