St. Luke's Cancer Centre

Image of St Luke's Chemotherapy Nurse

Brachytherapy - About us

Brachytherapy treatment uses high dose rate (HDR) and low dose rate (LDR) radioactive sources for some types of cancer. We also treat early (lower) rectal cancers with low energy x-rays using a Papillon machine for those patients who may not be fit enough for general anaesthesia or who do not want major surgery and the formation of a stoma.

We have a small specialised theatre located within radiotherapy which is used to treat a variety of gynaecological, prostate, oesophagus and rectal cancers using HDR sources. 

There is also a purpose built procedural theatre room based in the Stokes Urology Centre for implantation of LDR seeds for the treatment of Prostate cancer.

We are also very excited to provide a specialised type of contact radiotherapy (low energy x-ray treatment) called ‘Papillon’ developed for the treatment of early rectal cancer.

Services provided: 

  • HDR for gynaecological cancers
  • HDR for oesophageal cancers
  • HDR & LDR for prostate cancers
  • Contact brachytherapy for lower rectal cancers
  • HDR for rectal cancers

Contact us: 

Telephone: 01483 571 122

Location: 

Level A, Brachytherapy Theatre, St Luke’s Cancer Centre & Stokes Urology Centre.

What is brachytherapy?

Brachytherapy is a form of radiotherapy where a sealed source is placed inside or next to an area requiring treatment. Brachytherapy is commonly used as an effective treatment for a range of tumours and may be delivered as an in-patient or out patient service depending on the procedure. Sometimes it is referred to as internal radiotherapy. Brachytherapy can be high or low dose rate depending on what treatment has been prescribed for you.

How is this treatment delivered?

The treatment is delivered through tubes that transfer the source from a safe unit into or next to the part of the body that requires the treatment.

What arrangements do I need to make?

Depending on the type of treatment and area that you are having treated, it may be delivered as an outpatient attendance, or if the procedure requires anaesthesia, then you may be admitted to the day surgery unit. For some procedures you may stay overnight. You will be given information on what you need to bring to the hospital, if this is the case.

Who will I meet during my internal radiotherapy?

Clinical Oncologist

You will have a clinic appointment to see your doctor before you come for your internal treatment. This is to ensure you know what to expect and to give you time to ask any questions you may have.

Brachytherapy Radiographers 

They will be present during your treatment. They operate the machine being used to treat you and are trained to deliver the treatment.

Medical Physicist 

They provide radiation dose information. They may be present during your treatment, but are usually outside the treatment room.

Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS)

You will normally have met your CNS before you come for your radiotherapy.

What happens on the day?

The radiographers or nurses looking after you will explain the procedure to you. As we treat many different types of cancer, it is important to say that you will have met one of the radiographers prior to your treatment and they will have explained your personal treatment plan to you. You will have the opportunity to ask questions. Sometimes it helps to come prepared with questions written down. If you are being admitted to Day surgery you will receive independently information regarding your admission.

What sort of side effects might I have, and for how long?

Short term side effects arising from HDR treatment tend to be limited as the radiation dose is mainly confined to a small area but they may still occur. However if you have received a course of external beam radiotherapy to your pelvis you may experience the side effects relating to that treatment.

If you have problems with any of the side effects listed below and you are worried please feel free to contact the radiographers who treated you (via telephone number for radiotherapy reception), the radiotherapy review team or your clinical nurse specialist.

 See Patient Information Leaflets:

  • HDR brachytherapy & Papillon Treatment to the rectum
  • Internal radiotherapy to the Female Pelvis
  • HDR brachytherapy  to the oesophagus

Long term side effects can occur several months to years after the radiotherapy has finished. Once your radiotherapy has ended you will initially have regular follow-up appointments with your consultant and you will be carefully monitored for any signs of these long term effects. It may be useful to keep a note of your side effects during and after your radiotherapy so they can be more easily monitored.

Please remember that late effects of treatment only happen in a small number of patients who have received radiotherapy.

What happens when treatment ends?

  • On the last day of your treatment a radiographer will explain that the treatment will carry on working for another 2-3 weeks for HDR and contact brachytherapy.
  • The radiographer will make sure you have a follow-up appointment with your clinical oncologist. This may be at a hospital nearer to your home.
  • You will be given a leaflet and a copy of your radiotherapy discharge summary. Your GP will be sent a copy separately. In due course a letter summarising your treatment in more detail will also be sent through the post to your GP.
  • Please remember you are free to contact the department at any time after your treatment has finished should you have any concerns or questions.

Where can I get further support?

Further support can be given by the various Support Centres at locations in Guildford, Crawley and Purley. These centres provide information, complementary therapies, support groups and one to one support. To find out more contact the individual centres or ask radiotherapy department staff for a leaflet.

  • The Fountain Centre is located in St Luke’s Cancer Centre at Guildford.

    Telephone: 01483 406 618

    Website: www.fountaincentre.org

  • The East Surrey Macmillan Cancer Support Centre is located at East Surrey Hospital. 

    Telephone: 01737 304 176

    Email: informationcentre.sash@nhs.net

  • The Olive Tree is located in Crawley Hospital, Crawley. 

    Telephone: 01293 534 466

    Website: www.olivetreecancersupport.org.uk

  • South East Cancer Help Centre is located in Purley, Surrey. 

    Telephone: 02086 680 974

    Website: www.sechc.org.uk

Royal Surrey Charity