Frequently Asked Questions


About High Dose Rate Radiation

Q. What is High Dose Rate Radiation?

A. Radiation therapy involves the use of high energy radiation to damage cancer cells and prevent them from dividing (and spreading). Often, a cancerous tumor may be completely destroyed with radiation. High Dose Rate Radiation, also referred to as “brachytherapy” is a specialized form of radiation in which sealed radioactive isotopes are used to deliver radiation to tissue within a short distance, exactly where the tumor is located.

Q. What’s the process for brachytherapy?

A. Following the consultation with your radiation oncologist, one or more catheters will be placed right on the surface of the tumor or inside it. This may take 1-2 hours depending on the complexity of the implant site. All the catheters will be connected to the brachytherapy machine that sends radiation directly to the tumor site. Vital signs will be taken by a nurse throughout the course of treatment to see how your body is responding to the therapy.

Q. Is brachytherapy painful?

A. No. You will not feel or see the radiation as it is delivered to your body, even while the equipment moves around you.

Q. How long does the total treatment take?

A. It depends on the type of treatment. Some patients receive therapy once or twice a day for five days. Others require one treatment per week for several weeks. Generally, treatment can be accomplished within 30 minutes of each individual visit.

Q. Are there any side effects associated with this kind of radiation?

A. The most common side effects are fatigue or skin irritation, depending on the area of the body being treated. Your brachytherapy team will help you minimize them and even prevent them from recurring.

Q. What is External Beam Therapy?

A. A very powerful tool in the fight against cancer, external beam therapy (EBT) is a method of delivering a beam of high-energy x-rays to the location of the patient’s tumor. The beam is generated outside the patient by a machine (often a piece of equipment called a linear accelerator) and is targeted at the tumor site. These x-rays can destroy the cancer cells while sparing surrounding normal tissue. Using EBT, no radioactive materials are placed inside a patient’s body.


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