Brachytherapy is a radiation therapy that is used to treat cancer by placing radioactive sources near tumors and cancer cells. It is also known as internal radiation therapy. It is primarily of three types: Unsealed Internal Radiation Therapy, Interstitial Treatment, and Intracavitary Treatment. Hospitals offering Brachytherapy Treatment in India have state of the art equipment including radiotherapy equipment as well as the personnel to handle such complex instruments.
In contrast to external radiation, brachytherapy has lesser risks and side effects and lower time of treatment. Brachytherapy has achieved a high success rate in India, especially in cases of prostate cancer.
In India, the practice of brachytherapy is still not widespread, except at a few elite and private institutions. However, that said, India still offers competitive brachytherapy treatment compared to other countries such as the US and the UK. There are a number of premier hospitals with state of the art facilities offering the treatment to those with sufficient wherewithal. The cost of treatment varies depending on the type of cancer, from USD $900 for eye cancer to USD $7,500 for prostate cancer.
Brachytherapy is an advanced form of radiation therapy. It is also known as internal radiation therapy. Radiation therapy is a type of cancer treatment in which ionizing radiation is used to destroy cancer cells and shrink the size of the tumors. The conventional form of radiation therapy is external beam radiation that projects radiation from a machine outside of the body. In case of internal radiation or brachytherapy, radioactive particles or sources that are internally placed in or next to the tumour site, are used to destroy cancer cells. Brachytherapy helps deliver a high radiation dose to the tumor, with minimal exposure to the surrounding healthy tissues.It thus allows delivering high doses of radiation to more-specific areas of the body.
Brachytherapy can be used for effective treatment of cervical, prostate, breast, skin, lung, head and neck, and gum cancer, in addition to tumors located in other parts of the body. Brachytherapy for prostate cancer is a commonly performed procedure. It is also used for the treatment of gum cancer as well. Brachytherapy is an alternative treatment for gum cancer and is conducted who are unfit to undergo a surgery or do not need one.
Brachytherapy can be completed in less time than other conventional radiotherapy techniques. Brachytherapy for prostate cancer and other cancers is often performed on an outpatient basis and patients typically have to take fewer brachytherapy sessions, as compared to external radiotherapy treatment for cancer. This makes brachytherapy more accessible and convenient to many patients. Most of the patients are able to tolerate brachytherapy very well with fewer side effects.
There are two types of brachytherapy treatment:
Brachytherapy treatment plan is created and governed by a radiation oncologist, who is a highly trained physician specializing in treating cancer with radiotherapy. The radiation oncologist will require a team, including a medical physicist, dosimetrist, radiation therapist, radiation therapy nurse and in some cases, a surgeon to conduct the procedure. However, the radiation oncologist is the one who evaluates the patient and determines the appropriate therapy, including how much radiation to deliver.
In permanent brachytherapy, needles that are pre-filled with the radioactive brachytherapy seeds are inserted into the tumor. Then the needle or device is removed, leaving the radioactive seeds behind. Sometimes these seeds may be implanted in sessions using a device that inserts them individually at regular intervals. An appropriate imaging means such as an ultrasound, X-ray, MRI or CT scan may be used to assist the physician in positioning brachytherapy seeds at the right place. After implantation, some additional imaging can be done to verify seed placement.
Temporary brachytherapy starts with placing a delivery device, such as a catheter, needle, or applicator, into the tumor. Methods of imaging such as an ultrasound, MRI, or CT scan will help position the radiation sources correctly. The delivery device can either be inserted into a body cavity such as vagina (intracavitary brachytherapy) or applicators such as needles or catheters can be inserted into body tissues (interstitial brachytherapy). Device implantation will depend on the location of cancer.
Radiation using brachytherapy procedure can be delivered at three different levels:
For patients who have received brachytherapy for prostate cancer or any other types of cancer, limiting physical activity for at least three to five days is important. You can experience some level of grogginess after the procedure, however, it will last for only a few hours. You will be prescribed a few emergency medicines that you can take in case you experience pain or any other type of discomfort.
There are some side effects associated with all kinds of radiation therapy. However, the acute, sub-acute, or long-term side effects of brachytherapy depend on the location of the tumor being treated and the type of brachytherapy being used.
Some acute side effects of brachytherapy are
But these are temporary side effects and usually resolve within a few days following completion of treatment.
Usually, brachytherapy does not cause any long-term side effects, but in a few cases, it may cause urinary and digestive problems. But in that case as well, long-term side effects are usually mild or moderate in nature and there are many palliative medicines that are available to cope with the symptoms.
The average cost of brachytherapy in India (complete course) ranges between $1500 and $5000. This cost range is inclusive of the treatment, doctor’s fee, planning sessions, pre-procedure investigations, and follow-ups. The cost is not inclusive of a hotel stay, meals outside of hospital stay, and any other treatment that may be required alongside.
The factors that affect brachytherapy cost in India include the following:
Some of the top hospitals or brachytherapy include the following:
The following are the top doctors for brachytherapy:
The success rate of brachytherapy in India varies from one patient to the other. Several factors are considered while preparing the treatment plan for brachytherapy.
Brachytherapy is available for the treatment of different types of cancer, including the following:
The pros and cons of brachytherapy for the treatment of each of these cancer types are different. They should be thoroughly discussed with the specialist to have clarity on the expected success rates.
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