Brachytherapy is our newest tool in the treatment of esophageal cancer.
Recently, Gastrointestinal Associates teamed up with Thompson Cancer Survival Center to make this advanced treatment available to gastrointestinal patients in East Tennessee. Two patients have already benefitted from brachytherapy in our first month of offering the treatment.
Brachytherapy (brak-e-THER-uh-pee), sometimes called internal radiation, is a procedure that involves placing high-powered radiation inside your body, right at the site of the cancerous tumor. Unlike conventional radiation therapy which projects a beam of radiation from a machine outside of the body, this therapy allows physicians to deliver higher doses of radiation to more specific target areas with much fewer side effects.
For esophageal cancer, the brachytherapy radiation tube/seeds are placed in the esophagus during an endoscopic procedure while the patient is sedated. The actual radiation time varies between 5-10 minutes and two treatments are given over a 2 week period. For other areas of the body, ultrasound, x-ray and other imaging techniques enable the physician to place the radiation in the most effective position in relation to the tumor.
Brachytherapy for certain cancers has been shown to be as effective as surgery or external radiation and even more effective when used in combination with the other therapies. Since this procedure reduces radiation exposure and damage to healthy tissue near the tumor, it causes fewer side effects than conventional therapy. The treatment time is also usually shorter with brachytherapy.
Brachytherapy is an effective treatment for many types of cancer, particularly small or locally advanced tumors. It has been most commonly used to treat cervical, prostate, breast and skin cancers. Now we are able to add esophageal cancer to the list.
With new systems in place to reduce the risk of unnecessary radiation exposure to both the operator and patients, and new imaging technologies that make placement more precise, this procedure is an important tool in treating esophageal cancer.
We are pleased to be able to offer the benefits of brachytherapy to our patients at GIA.