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At UT Southwestern Medical Center, our radiation oncologists are among a few in North Texas who offer brachytherapy, a special type of radiation therapy that can be very effective for targeting some cancerous tumors. We are the only center in North Texas offering intraoperative brachytherapy. Brachytherapy is internal radiation therapy, which involves a radioactive substance implanted in or near a cancerous tumor to provide direct, targeted treatment.

The Most Comprehensive Brachytherapy Program in North Texas

Radiation therapy is a common form of cancer treatment that uses high-energy electromagnetic waves, such as X-rays or gamma rays, to damage or destroy cancer cells. Brachytherapy is a special type of radiation therapy involving the placement of radioactive material in or near a cancerous tumor to provide direct, targeted treatment.

Brachytherapy uses tiny radioactive sources such as capsules, pellets, seeds, or wires that are implanted in the body either temporarily or permanently. This method of treatment can deliver a high dose of radiation to a small volume, thereby maximizing cancer killing while minimizing damage to nearby healthy tissues.

UT Southwestern has the most comprehensive brachytherapy program in North Texas. Our radiation oncologists work closely with medical oncologists and cancer surgeons to provide brachytherapy treatments for a wide range of cancers. Our cancer teams use imaging to guide brachytherapy procedures, making treatments even more safe and effective and thus maintaining our patients’ quality of life.

As the only National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated comprehensive cancer center in North Texas, we deliver the best cancer care available today while also pushing to discover new treatments. NCI designation means we offer patients the opportunity to participate in the broadest possible range of clinical trials, with access to potential therapies not available at other facilities.

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Brachytherapy Treatment Options

Our cancer teams administer different types of brachytherapy in different ways, based on the type of cancer and each patient’s situation.

In most cases we use intracavitary brachytherapy, which involves placing radioactive sources in a space or cavity in the body (such as the rectum or uterus) close to the tumor. For advanced and complex tumors, we use interstitial brachytherapy, in which the sources are implanted directly inside the tumor.

Brachytherapy can be performed using high-dose-rate (HDR) or low-dose-rate (LDR) sources. Our team will discuss the benefits of each approach with patients and help them decide which is best to treat their cancer.

  • High-dose-rate brachytherapy: Patients receive dose from a powerful radioactive source for a few minutes per treatment session, after which the source is removed from the patient’s body. Usually a few such treatment sessions are held over a few weeks, though scheduling may vary depending on the specific case.
  • Low-dose-rate brachytherapy: This type of brachytherapy provides a low level of radiation dose over a long period, such as one to several days, before the radioactive source is removed. In certain cases, the radioactive source is permanently left in the body and stops releasing radiation after a few weeks.

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As a leader in brachytherapy treatment, UT Southwestern offers treatments not available at all facilities. For example:

  • MR-guided image-based cervix brachytherapy: We use magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) for treatment planning in brachytherapy. In the past, physicians typically used two-dimensional imaging to minimize dose to any healthy organs in the vicinity of the treatment volume. However, in the last decade several studies have found that the clinical outcome of patients with cervical cancer who receive MRI-guided brachytherapy is better than for those who receive traditional 2-D planning. UT Southwestern experts have published a study showing this improvement.
  • Intraoperative brachytherapy: Using our specialized brachytherapy room, our team can implant radioactive sources in patients immediately after a tumor is surgically removed, thereby delivering radiation to treat any cancer cells still remaining in the surgical region. This yields a more aggressive, targeted treatment. 

Watch videos on brachytherapy.

Cancers We Treat with Brachytherapy

At the Simmons Cancer Center, our cancer specialists use brachytherapy to treat:

What to Expect

Procedures vary depending on the type of cancer. Some patients go home the same day of the procedure, while other treatments require a hospital stay. Our team discusses details with patients and answers any questions they have.