Treating Mesothelioma with Brachytherapy

Brachytherapy is a type of mesothelioma radiation treatment that uses ionizing radiation to shrink tumors. It differs from traditional external beam radiation in that instead of using machine-generated x-ray beams that are directed at the tumor from outside the body, treatment is internal. During a brachytherapy procedure, radioactive material (commonly referred to as “seeds”) is implanted inside or adjacent to the tumor. The benefit of this type of mesothelioma radiation treatment is that it allows for a higher dose of radiation to be directly focused on the treatment area.

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Brachytherapy Is Either Temporary or Permanent

When this form of mesothelioma radiation is used as a temporary treatment, the radioactive material is left inside the body for a specified time period and then removed. The surgeon can choose to administer either:

  • A high dose temporary treatment, meaning a significant number of radioactive seeds are left in place for a few minutes. A high dose treatment can be repeated several times.
  • A low dose temporary treatment, in which  a low level of radioactive material is left in place for several hours. This is usually done only once.

In permanent brachytherapy, the radioactive seeds are permanently left at the implantation site. After several months, the seeds are no longer radioactive, and even though they remain inside the body, they will cause no harm to the patient.

The Brachytherapy Procedure

Patients who undergo permanent brachytherapy will have needles containing radioactive seeds inserted into their tumor. The needles are then withdrawn, leaving the radioactive seeds behind. Seeds can also be implanted using a device that injects them into the tumor at periodic intervals. 

In a temporary brachytherapy procedure, a catheter is place inside the tumor with the help of CT scan, MRI or ultrasound, and the radioactive material is inserted via the catheter.

High dose brachytherapy is usually performed as an outpatient procedure. The radiation is administered to the tumor using a remote-afterloading unit. The actual treatment only lasts a few minutes but since the setup for the procedure takes a significant amount of time, the patient may have to remain in the treatment facility for a few hours so that several treatments can be administered before the afterloading device is removed. Patients can undergo as many as 10 high dose brachytherapy sessions over one or more weeks.

Low dose brachytherapy is performed in-hospital.  Delivery of the radioactive material is at a continuous rate over several hours or days. Pulsed dose-rate brachytherapy, another form of the low dose procedure, is delivered in periodic pulses approximately one hour apart.

A Florida Mesothelioma Treatment Center Explains the Risks

The Mayo Clinic, which performs brachytherapy at its Florida facility, offers this summary of the possible adverse reactions to the brachytherapy mesothelioma treatment:
“Side effects of brachytherapy are specific to the area being treated. Because brachytherapy focuses radiation in a small treatment area, only that area is affected. You may experience tenderness and swelling in the treatment area. Ask your doctor what other side effects can be expected from your treatment.”

Mesothelioma and asbestos-related illnesses can strike at-risk populations without warning. If you were exposed to asbestos or silicate in other forms on the job and are undergoing mesothelioma treatments, our Florida mesothelioma lawyers can meet with you to discuss a possible negligence case.