Radiation therapy works by causing DNA damage in cancer cells that cannot be repaired and leads to cancer cell death. It can be given externally or internally, depending on the type and location of the tumor. External radiation is delivered by a machine called a linear accelerator that generates high-energy beams that are precisely directed into the tumor. External beam radiotherapy is delivered over several days or many weeks depending on a variety of factors. Internal radiation therapy, also known as brachytherapy, uses radioactive sources that can be temporarily inserted or permanently implanted in the operating room. Radiation from the implant travels only a short distance, which spares most tissues from treatment side effects.
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. Many patients with basal cell or squamous cell skin cancers will be treated surgically with excellent results. For selected patients who cannot (or choose not to) be treated surgically, HDR Brachytherapy provides an effective treatment alternative with few side effects. HDR Brachytherapy for skin cancer is:
For appropriate patients, HDR Brachytherapy provides optimal convenience and minimal disruption of a demanding day-to-day schedule. In comparison to a course of standard radiotherapy, HDR Brachytherapy is considerably shorter (6-10 treatments vs. 30 treatments). Each HDR treatment lasts only a few minutes.
HDR Brachytherapy delivers a highly concentrated dose of radiation using a 30 channel Nucletron microSelectron® Digital HDR unit and the latest version of the Oncentra® treatment planning software.
In contrast to standard radiotherapy, HDR Brachytherapy focuses on the tumor with a more superficial beam. As a result, HDR Brachytherapy results in less radiation delivered to a patient’s deeper, healthy tissues. Since the applicator is in contact with the skin, small patient movements do not affect targeting, unlike standard radiotherapy.
THE APPLICATOR – (Left) The Valencia applicator, which is used with isotope based brachytherapy, positioned on a hand. (Right) The Freiburg Flap applicator, a flexible piece of plastic with parallel tubes is placed on top of the skin lesion and a tiny radioactive seed travels down each tube. For large lesions on the side of the face or areas that wrap around irregular surfaces, then the flap can be used.
Radiation Oncology Center, 10301 Democracy Lane, Fairfax, VA 22030