Bookmark and Share

About brachytherapy

Brachytherapy is a type of radiotherapy

Brachytherapy is a type of radiotherapy that can be used to treat many types of cancer.

It is sometimes known as ‘internal radiotherapy’, or when used in the treatment of prostate cancer, ‘seed therapy’.

Radiotherapy is an important method of treating cancer. It works by destroying cancer cells by targeting them with radiation and stopping them dividing and growing.

About 4 out of 10 people with cancer have some type of radiotherapy as part of their treatment.1

Types of radiotherapy

There are two basic types of radiotherapy:

  • External beam radiotherapy (EBRT)
  • Brachytherapy

EBRT delivers radiation from outside the body. Brachytherapy works by precisely targeting the cancerous tumor from inside the body. The source of radiation is placed directly inside or next to the tumor.2 This tailored approach reduces the risk of any unnecessary damage to healthy tissue and organs that are close to the tumor, therefore reducing potential side effects.2

Brachytherapy is commonly used as an effective treatment for cervical, prostate, breast and skin cancer and can also be used to treat tumors in many other sites of the body. Brachytherapy can be used to treat cancer on its own or in combination with other treatment methods, such as surgery, external beam radiotherapy or chemotherapy.2 The exact treatment(s) will depend on a number of factors, such as the location, shape and size of the tumor, and individual patient preferences.

Watch the video to learn more about brachytherapy:

Overview of common cancer treatments

Operation to remove the tumor.
External beam radiotherapy
Radiation delivered from the outside of the body to stop the tumor growing or to shrink it.

External beam radiotherapy works from 'the outside, in.'
Radiation delivered from inside the body to stop the tumor growing or to shrink it.

Brachytherapy works from 'the inside, out.'
Drug treatment to stop the tumor growing or to shrink it.

















1. Cancer Research UK. Available at: Accessed 2 February 2011.
2. Patel RR and Arthur DW. Hematology/Oncology Clinics of North America 2006;20(1):97–118.
3. National Cancer Institute. Available at: Accessed 2 February 2011.