Brachytherapy is a local radiotherapy method that involves placement of radioactive sources inside the body or body cavities. Brachytherapy does not harm the body except for a very small amount of tissue close to the targeted body part. In brachytherapy performed for breast cancer, the breast is only partially irradiated. Only a small area around the tumor is irradiated. This method has been used in breast cancer for many years. The most common technique is interstitial brachytherapy. In interstitial brachytherapy, needles or rods are inserted immediately around the tumor inside the breast or around the surgically excised tissue. The needles remain in the same part of the breast throughout the treatment which may take several days.
There are several brachytherapy methods. Balloon brachytherapa with Mammosite, which has been used for the last 5 years, is one of them. In this method, a catheter is placed into the surgical site; this catheter has canals and consists of small ducts measuring several millimeters in diameter. One of the canals can be inflated with a fluid. The site that remains empty after surgical removal of breast tissue is filled in this way and the targeted cancerous region can be irradiated. Thus, surrounding healthy tissues can be preserved. The catheter can be easily removed; it does not require administration of anesthesia and it can be inflated during the application and emptied when the application is completed. This type of treatment usually lasts for 4 or 5 days.
In addition to these therapies, there is another method, called intraoperative brachytherapy. Intraoperative brachytherapy can target the surgically removed tumor and the surrounding tissue in one session. Various applicators are available for this method, which is quite effective. Although follow-up periods are not too long, all of three brachytherapy methods are successfully employed for radiotherapy in breast cancer.