Q1 How does Brachytherapy work?
A1 Brachytherapy involves the placement of the source of radiation in or near the cancerous tissue. Brachytherapy, this word is derived from Greek Word, "Brachy", which means "Short distance" and "Therapy"that implies Treatment. Hence, Brachytherapy implies, treatment from a short distance.
Brachytherapy works on the laws of physics according to which the radiation intensity is the maximum near the source of radiation eg. Radioactive seeds and the more the distance from the radioactive source, the intensity of the radiation diminishes significantly. This places Brachytherapy at an advantageous position over External Beam Radiation Therapy because it spares the surrounding healthy tissues such as heart, lungs, skin, ribs from harmful effects of radiation. Thousands of patients suffering from Breast cancer have reaped its benefits over conventional External Beam radiation Therapy and found it to be a safe and effective alternative for breast cancer treatment. Although the overall patient survival in both cases is similar yet the convenience and compliance is better in Brachytherapy. Brachytherapy has a shorter course of treatment , usually 5 days as compared to 6 to 7 weeks of daily radiation therapy in case of External Beam Radiation Therapy.
Q2 What are the advantages of Brachytherapy?
A2. The several advantages that Brachytherapy can offer to the patient are:
Radiation Dose delivery is optimal and precise.
Surrounding healthy tissue is spared of the radiation effects.
Short duration of treatment resulting in patient compliance and convenience.
Q3 What is the role of Brachytherapy in Breast Cancer Treatment?
A3 Brachytherapy offers hope to many patients with Early Stage Breast Cancer. It is an advanced form of radiation therapy, an effective alternative to Conventional Whole Breast External Beam Radiation Therapy. Radiation therapy is usually recommended after lumpectomy for treatment of Early Stage Breast Cancer and lower the risk of cancer's recurrence. Brachytherapy is also referred to as Accelerated Partial Breast Irradiation (APBI). As compared to the Conventional Whole Breast External Beam Radiation Therapy, Brachytherapy involves delivery of high dose radiation from within, to a small region of breast for a short period of time.
Q4 Am I the right candidate for Brachytherapy for Breast Cancer Treatment?
A4 Every woman with breast cancer is not the suitable candidate for Brachytherapy. Some women may need conventional whole breast radiation instead. However, the decision of the most appropriate treatment protocol for you will be determined by your team of specialists after taking into account the characteristics of your breast cancer.
Conventional EBRT(External Beam Radiation Therapy), as the name implies, involves radiation given from source placed outside the breast. It causes destruction of the cancer cells by radiating either the whole breast or the target area where the tumor was.
The following general guidelines have been laid down to evaluate patient's eligibility for Brachytherapy as an option for treating breast cancer. They can be summarized as follows:
Invasive breast cancer or DCIS(Ductal carcinoma in Situ) diagnosis with a size equal to or smaller than 3cm.
Clean surgical margins, 1mm at least
Breast cancer with single centre of origin(Unicentric)
Negative lymph node or at the most 3 positive lymph nodes in the armpit region and with no penetration of the capsule of the lymph node by the tumor.
Maximum 6 weeks interval from Lumpectomy surgery or Breast USG and CT scan evidence showing clear lumpectomy cavity edge.
This is for information purpose only. Your specialist is the best person to advise you on the best treatment protocol for you specially customized as per your needs.
Q5 What are the disadvantages of conventional External Beam Radiation Therapy to breast as compared to Brachytherapy?
A5 The disadvantages of Conventional EBRT as compared to Brachytherapy treatment for breast cancer can be summarized as follows:
Inconvenience to the patient and her family- Traditional radiation therapy involves daily visit to the hospital for usually 5 days a week for nearly 4 to 6 weeks, which is cumbersome.
Large area of work- Conventional radiation therapy generally expose large area to the harmful effects of radiation compromising the safety of heart and lungs.
Q6 What are the different types of Brachytherapy used for treating breast cancer?
A6 Brachytherapy for Breast Cancer treatment is an advanced radiation treatment for breast cancer, wherein the radiation source is placed inside the breast. It is of three types. Out of three types, only two types are currently in use and third one is still experimental.