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Brachytherapy for the Treatment of Gynecologic Cancers

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Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital now offers brachytherapy, a minimally invasive treatment for several types of gynecologic cancers, including endometrial, cervical and vaginal cancer.

About Gynecologic Brachytherapy

Brachytherapy is a form of radiation treatment that works inside your body. Gynecologic brachytherapy treatment involves the insertion of small radioactive seeds into the body to target and eliminate cancer cells. Brachytherapy is a minimally invasive procedure and most patients are discharged the same day.   

Before the Procedure

Once you have decided on Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital for your radiation treatment, a team comprised of a radiation physicist, a dosimetrist and a radiation oncologist all consult using pre-treatment imaging to determine the best treatment plan for you and the appropriate kind and dose of radiation. This includes determining if high dose rate (HDR) or low dose rate (LDR) brachytherapy is best for you.

Prior to treatment, patients are often treated with external beam radiation to break the tumor down to a manageable size.

The Day of Treatment

To begin the procedure, your doctor will place a small holder or such as a catheter inside your body as close as possible to the cancerous cell. Then seeds are put inside the small holder so that the radiation can reach and destroy the cancer cells. With the most recent advances in ultrasound and CT technology, we are able to deliver the dose of radiation precisely within the cancerous tissue with minimal exposure to normal tissue.

High Dose Rate (HDR) Brachytherapy

High dose rate (HDR) brachytherapy is usually used to treat most endometrial cancers, and some cervical and vaginal caners. These radioactive implants stay in place for only a few minutes at a time and are then removed. The procedure is done as an outpatient, meaning that you go home after the procedure. The treatment courses and number of treatments delivered differ for various types of cancers.

Low Dose Rate (LDR) Brachytherapy

If you are receiving low dose rate (LDR) brachytherapy which is usually used to treat more advanced gynecologic cancers, your radioactive implants may stay in for several hours, or even days. You will be admitted to the hospital, and stay in a special room at the hospital.  You will be instructed that you will need to limit your time with visitors. On average each family member or friend can visit for 45-60 minutes per day. 

After the Procedure

Your doctor will perform physical exams, and approximately three months after treatment, may order scans to determine if your treatment was successful.  Brachytherapy can also be used in conjunction with other cancer treatments, such as surgery or chemotherapy.  Upon completion of your treatment, your physician will determine the next steps for you based on your condition, and provide you with a written follow-up plan specifically for your condition and type of cancer.

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