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Internal Radiation Therapy

Also called brachytherapy, this treatment involves inserting radioactive material into a tumor or surrounding tissue to give a more focused dose of radiation. For head and neck cancers, brachytherapy is often used with external beam radiation therapy, but it may also be used alone or given after surgery.

During brachytherapy, your radiation oncologist places thin, hollow, plastic tubes into the tumor and surrounding tissue. These tubes are loaded with tiny radioactive seeds that remain in place for a short time to kill the cancer. The seeds and the tubes are then removed. With low-dose-rate brachytherapy, the seeds will be left in place for one to three days. For high-dose-rate brachytherapy, a single radioactive seed stops at various positions along the tubes for short times to deliver an equivalent dose and is usually given in a few sessions over two or more days. The exact type of brachytherapy and lengths of time the seeds are in place will depend on your cancer and treatment plan.