Aga Khan University Hospital launched the first high dose rate brachytherapy programme in the region.
Dr Farrok Karsan, Section Head Radiation Oncology, Aga Khan University Hospital, answers some frequently asked questions on Brachytherapy.
What is Brachytherapy?
There are a number of options to treat cancer, including but not limited to surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
Brachytherapy is a type of radiotherapy that can be used to treat cancer.
Brachytherapy means “short distance” therapy. Teletherapy, as with the accelerators, means delivering treatment at a distance. In Brachytherapy the radioactive source is placed as close to the tumor as possible to deliver a very high dose in a localized area. This reduces the risk of unnecessary damage to the healthy tissue and organs close to the tumor.
What is the role of Brachytherapy in cancer treatment and how does it work?
The brachytherapy treatment is computerised, preplanned and personalised according to shape, size, location or other preference.
Brachytherapy can be given in a variety of modes which are either permanent or temporary. Permanent includes implanting the source permanently into the tumor (such as in prostrate cancer), where as in temporary the source of radiation is placed for a set duration through temporary implantation of radioactive needles (as in head and neck cancers), or by placing the source next to the tumour that is accessible through an orifice (such as in cervical or stomach cancer).
Is Brachytherapy an option for all cancers?
The most commonly treated cancers by HDR Brachytherapy method are cervix, uterine, esophagus, lung, and biliary tract. There is also a system to treat prostate cancer as a non-permanent implant.
What are the potential benefits of Brachytherapy?
The advantages of HDR Brachytherapy include:
1. Short treatment time, an average of 10-15 minutes
2. Is an outpatient procedure. The patient can go home within 3-4 hours and resume life normally
3. Does not normally require hospitalisation and therefore reduces cost and increases convenience for the patient
4. The patient does not remain radioactive
5. Due to its targeted nature the side effects are minimised
How do I know if Brachytherapy is an option for me?
Not all cancers are amenable to treatment with brachytherapy. Not every patient with a cancer is suitable
for such treatment. That is why it is important for you to consult your oncologist to determine if Brachytherapy is appropriate for you.
Is this therapy readily available in the region?
HDR Brachytherapy was inaugurated at the Aga Khan University Hospital on August 7, 2012. The Hospital offers treatments for gynecological malignancies (cervix, uterus, vagina), lung, and esophagus. It is the first time that this form of Brachytherapy (HDR) has been available in the regio