Brachytherapy is when doctors treat cancer by inserting radioactive material directly into the affected area. A high dose of radiation is administered to the tumor, though the healthy tissue only receives a small amount.

Brachytherapy is normally used to treat prostate cancer, cervical cancer, and uterine cancer. It is also used to treat other types such as head and neck cancers.

How it is given depends on the type of cancer being treated.

  • Prostate cancer – small radioactive seeds are inserted either directly into the tumor or into a catheter in the prostate.
  • Cervical and uterine cancer – applicators are placed inside the uterus or the vagina. The radioactive material is inserted inside the applicators.
  • Mouth, cervical, breast, and other cancers – very thin radioactive needles, wires, or tubes are inserted into the tumor. This is done under general anesthesia
  • Secondary liver cancer – radioactive beads are inserted into the blood vessels using a catheter.