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Frequently asked questions

How effective is brachytherapy in treating breast cancer?

Brachytherapy is a very effective treatment option for  early breast cancer. Long-term studies following women who have received brachytherapy (either as a ‘boost’ dose of radiation after whole breast irradiation, or as accelerated partial breast irradiation) show that the vast majority of women continue to remain free of breast cancer many years after treatment.1-5

Will the brachytherapy procedure hurt?

If your brachytherapy involves the placement of needles or a balloon or strut device  within the breast (interstitial or intracavitary brachytherapy; see procedure section), your treatment will be performed under a general anesthetic or in some cases local anaesthetic +/- sedation and so it shouldn’t hurt. You may feel a little bit of discomfort afterwards, but this usually soon wears off.

If I have brachytherapy, do I have to stay in hospital overnight?

This depends on how many doses (known as ‘fractions’) of brachytherapy you require. If you need more than one fraction, you may need to stay in hospital for a few days.1

How will I know if brachytherapy has worked?

After your procedure,  regular appointments will be scheduled to check that the tumor is responding to the treatment.

What are the side effects of brachytherapy?

All treatments for breast cancer carry a risk of side effects. Short-term side effects of brachytherapy can include tiredness, soreness or redness on the skin of the breast, swollen breast tissue, slight changes in the color of the skin of the breast. There is also a small risk of infection following the placement of the catheters.1,6Learn more about possible side effects.

How soon can I get back to work after receiving brachytherapy?

The recovery time after brachytherapy is usually short. After 2-5 days, most patients can get back to their everyday activities.1


Other questions?

If you have a general question about brachytherapy that is not answered here, email us at and we will do our best to provide an answer on the website.

Please note that, while we will endeavor to answer as many questions as possible, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to post answers to all questions submitted. Please also note that we can only answer general questions – please contact your healthcare professional if you have any concerns or questions about your personal health.

1. Van Limbergen E & Mazeron JJ. 18. Breast Cancer. In: The GEC ESTRO Handbook of Brachytherapy. Gerbaulet A, Potter R, Mazeron J-J, Meertens H and Van Limbergen E (Eds). Leuven, Belgium, ACCO. 2002.
2. Jalali R, Singh S, Budrukkar A. Techniques of tumour bed boost irradiation in breast conserving therapy: current evidence and suggested guidelines. Acta Oncol 2007;46(7):879-92.
3. Polgar C, Major T, Fodor J, et al. High-dose-rate brachytherapy alone versus whole breast radiotherapy with or without timor bed boost after breast-conserving surgery: seven-year results of a comparative study. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys 2004;60(4):1173-81.
4. Nelson JC, Beitsch PD, Vicini FA, et al. Four-year clinical update from the American Society of Breast Surgeons mammoSite brachytherapy trial. Am J Surg 2009;198(1):83-91.
5. Polgar C et al. Radiother Oncol 2013;108:197-202
6. Kelley JR et al. In: Brachytherapy: applications and techniques. Devlin PM (Ed). Philadelphia, PA, LWW. 2007.