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Brachytherapy: Mesothelioma Treatment

Brachytherapy is a high tech and precise radiation treatment performed by implanting radioactive "seeds" near or directly inside cancerous tumors. This procedure allows physicians to deliver a strong and direct dose of radiation to the tumors, while causing little damage to the surrounding tissues. It is most commonly used to treat prostate, breast, or cervical cancer but may also be used to treat mesothelioma. It is a relatively quick procedure that does not require an overnight stay in the hospital and typically takes an hour to complete. Afterwards, the implanted seeds remain in the body and transmit radiation for about a year.

There are two methods by which the radioactive sources may be implanted in the body. The first method is called intracavitary treatment and involves passing radioactive sources in special containers through body cavities such as the windpipe, uterus or vagina. The second method is called interstitial treatment. In interstitial treatment the radioactive sources are not placed in containers but rather injected into the tumor directly via thin needles. The seeds are small (smaller than a grain of rice) and cause little discomfort. General anesthesia is often used during these procedures. In some cases, Brachytherapy is done in combination with external beam therapy to help destroy the main mass of tumor cells.

The decision regarding which of these treatment methods is most appropriate to the patient, is contingent on several factors including: the location of the mesothelioma, the patient's relative health and the type of cancer treatments received previously.

Because Brachytherapy is such a precise form of radiation treatment it can, in some cases, be substituted for surgery. Generally patients undergoing Brachytherapy experience far fewer side effects than less localized forms of radiation treatment.

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