Brachytherapy is a type of cancer treatment. It utilizes radioactive beads, seeds or implants that are inserted near or in tumors found in the prostate. These radioactive seeds produce radiation exposure to the cancerous cells, while reducing radiation damage or exposure to healthy tissues surrounding the damaged or diseased prostate. The word "brachy" is from the Greek word for "short distance".
Low dose brachytherapy or high dose rate (HDR) brachytherapy provides a minimally invasive procedure to help treat cancers of the prostate. Brachytherapy is a common therapy used today to treat prostate cancer, but is also used to treat a variety of other types of cancer. Brachytherapy offers very precise radiation doses for the treatment of prostate cancer, controls growth of the tumor, and reduces side effects as well as surrounding tissue damage.
The most commonly used brachytherapy today is high dose rate, which involves temporary insertion of the radioactive pellets into the prostate. Low-dose brachytherapy may require the radioactive pellets to remain in the prostate for a specific period of time.
In order to initiate brachytherapy, the patient is placed on a table in an outpatient surgical suite or operating room. A catheter, or round, hollow tube is inserted into the patient's prostate. The catheter is directed into the center of the tumor wherever possible. The catheter is connected to a high dose rate device that contains radioactive iridium pellets surrounded by titanium capsules about the size of a rice grain. The radioactive pellets are placed at the end of the catheter wire and pushed through the catheter into the prostate in highly precise locations.
The computerized device determines the exact location for the release of the radiation pellets, and determines how many pellets will be placed in the prostate, depending on diagnosis and prognosis. The procedure generally takes only a few minutes. Following the insertion of the pellets, the catheters and the pellets are removed. The radioactive seeds are not left in the body following a high dose rate brachytherapy treatment.
Cost of treatment for brachytherapy depends on how many treatments are necessary. In most cases, the patient will receive three to four HDR treatments roughly six hours apart. Following treatment, patients are released from the hospital or outpatient center.
Brachytherapy in the United States costs an average of $25,000, again depending on the number of treatments, and the type of brachytherapy selected. Individuals traveling to foreign destinations such as India or Mexico for low dose or high dose brachytherapy treatments may save hundreds or thousands of dollars on the same effective treatments.
For treatment of any damage, disease or cancer of the pancreas, patients are encouraged to look for doctors and specialists in radioactive or nuclear medicine. These individuals should be trained in their field, and experience, training, and certification in their specific area of medicine is essential for optimal benefits.
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