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Brachytherapy, a short distance therapy for cancer

<div><span style="font-family: helvetica;">According to World Health Organization statistics 7.6 million people worldwide died from cancer in 2008 with approximately 70 percent of cancer deaths occurring in low and middle income countries and 30 percent of these were preventable.</span></div><div><br style="font-family: helvetica;"/></div><div><span style="font-family: helvetica;">The most common options of cancer treatment include, but are not limited to surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. A lesser known form of treatment is Brachytherapy which involves internal or short distance radiation treatment focusing only on the affected area.</span></div><div><br style="font-family: helvetica;"/></div><div><span style="font-family: helvetica;">The Aga Khan University Hospital, Nairobi has launched the first high dose rate (HDR) Brachytherapy programme in the region. In this treatment programme the radioactive source is placed as close to the tumor as possible delivering a high dose of radiation in a localised area reducing the risk of unnecessary damage to healthy tissue and organs.</span></div><div><br style="font-family: helvetica;"/></div><div><span style="font-family: helvetica;">“This form of treatment is computerised, preplanned and personalised according to the tumor and patient characteristics. HDR Brachytherapy is a mode of treatment which is temporary,” explained Dr. Farrok Karsan, Section Head Radiation Oncology, Aga Khan University Hospital, Nairobi. </span></div><div><br style="font-family: helvetica;"/></div><div><span style="font-family: helvetica;">“A permanent treatment involves implanting a radiation source into the tumor such as in prostrate cancer which is never removed but will decay over a period of time. The temporary mode will see the source of radiation placed for a set duration next to the tumour that is accessible through an orifice as in cervical or esophageal cancer.  Once the dose has been delivered the radioactive source is removed.  Thus when the patient is discharged home there is no fear of exposing family members or others to radiation”, he added.</span></div><div><br style="font-family: helvetica;"/></div><div><span style="font-family: helvetica;">Advantages associated with the HDR programme include a shortened treatment time running from 10 to 15 minutes as an outpatient procedure thus allowing the patient to go home within three to four hours of treatment. Hospitalisation is also not required making it cost effective for most. Due to its targeted nature, the treatment has minimal side effects and does not leave the patient in a radioactive state.</span></div><div><br style="font-family: helvetica;"/></div><div><span style="font-family: helvetica;">The HDR Brachytherapy programme can be used in the treatment of cervical, uterine, oesophagus, lung and biliary tract cancers “Although it may seem an attractive option, not all cancers are amenable to treatment with Brachytherapy. It is crucial that the patient consults with an oncologist to determine the best form of treatment,” advised Dr. Karsan.</span></div><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">
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Aga Khan University Hospital, 3rd Parklands Avenue, Limuru Road, Nairobi, Kenya.

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