Brachytherapy: An advanced radiation treatment for some cancers

If you have been diagnosed with breast, prostate or gynecological cancer, you may be a candidate for brachytherapy -- an extremely precise form of radiation therapy that can be delivered in a shorter course of treatment than external beam radiation therapy.


Treating cancer with internal radiation

As a comprehensive cancer center we offer the full range of cancer treatments, including some that aren’t available everywhere.

One of these is brachytherapy. Few medical centers in the U.S. have the expertise and have treated as many patients with brachytherapy as the UW Health | Carbone Cancer Center.

Brachytherapy is a type of radiation therapy. It lets us attack certain cancers while limiting radiation exposure to healthy tissue. For some cancers, such as breast, brachytherapy may offer a shorter radiation treatment course. In some cases, such as with cervical cancer, it improves the cure rate and helps patients live longer.

About the treatment

What is brachytherapy?

Most commonly, radiation for cancer treatment comes from outside your body. Brachytherapy typically delivers radiation from the inside.

The treatment involves special seeds, ribbons or capsules that have a radiation source. We place them into or near your tumor. In some cases, we use a thin, flexible tube called a catheter to deliver the radiation source. Other times, we use an applicator — a larger, hollow tube.

Types of brachytherapy

There are three main types of brachytherapy:

  • Low-dose-rate (LDR) brachytherapy — With this treatment, the radiation source remains in your body a week or less before it’s removed. You may remain in the hospital the entire time. 

  • High-dose-rate (HDR) brachytherapy — This treatment delivers radiation more quickly than with low-dose-rate implants, and is given as outpatient treatments. Depending on your cancer type, you may have a brief treatment once or twice a day for several days, or treatment may be given once or twice a week over several weeks.

  • Permanent brachytherapy — With this form of treatment, the radiation source remains in your body permanently. Over time, it will become weaker. 

Types of cancers brachytherapy is used to treat

We use brachytherapy to treat cancers of the breast, cervix, endometrium, eye, head and neck, prostate, skin and vagina.

The treatment process

Fighting cancer from inside your body

Here’s what you can expect if you have brachytherapy:

Prior to your arrival we will review your records, then get to know you and work with the appropriate team members to help you understand your condition and the best treatment options.

Once we make a decision about your treatment, our staff will work with you to make arrangements for the planned procedure. This will include talking through the process and providing you with the right information on all the necessary steps from planning to completing the treatment and follow-up.

  • You arrive at the hospital for preparation.

  • You meet with anesthesia and the other members of your medical team.

  • During the cancer specific procedures our radiation oncologists place the proper catheters or devices to help deliver the internal radiation very accurately.

  • The devices are then removed and the procedure is completed.

Meet our team

Specialized cancer treatment from an expert team

Brachytherapy is a unique cancer treatment that requires knowledge, skill, experience and dedicated procedural suites. Our team includes radiation oncologists, physicists, dosimetrists, radiation therapists and nurses. They work together to provide you with the best cancer care.


Wisconsin’s top cancer care

We offer brachytherapy through the UW Health | Carbone Cancer Center and our affiliated clinics.

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UW Health | Carbone Cancer Center

The experts at the UW Health | Carbone Cancer Center intimately understand every type of cancer. We will get to know you and design a treatment plan that works for you and your family.

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