What Happens During Internal Radiation Therapy (Brachytherapy) for Esophageal Cancer

For this type of radiation, your doctor uses one of these tools to insert radiation in or near the tumor.

  • Needles

  • Wires

  • Catheters (small tubes)

With one of these tools, the doctor delivers the radiation in doses, much like external radiation.

Another option your doctor may use is to insert some small seeds or pellets that contain radiation. Your doctor places these near the tumor. And they are left in your body only for a certain amount of time.

How to Prepare for Internal Radiation

To prepare for internal radiation therapy, you’ll have an appointment for some imaging tests. These tests may include a CT scan and esophageal ultrasound. They help your doctor see inside your esophagus and surrounding area. That way, he or she can map out exactly where the radiation needs to be placed.

What Happens on the Day of Internal Radiation

On the day of the procedure, you may have a local anesthetic or general anesthesia so you fall asleep and don’t feel pain. While you lie on your back, your surgeon inserts a tube, called a catheter, into your esophagus. Your doctor uses the tube to place a tiny bit of radioactive dye. This dye helps your doctor see your esophagus on a special type of X-ray called a fluoroscopy so he or she knows where the tumor is.

Once he or she has a clear view of your esophagus, your surgeon carefully guides a needle, wire, or catheter to the cancer. These allow the surgeon to deliver the radiation.

Or your surgeon inserts seeds or pellets. Then, the doctor checks the X-rays to see if they are in the right place.


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