The Institut IMOR is a reference center in oncological treatments. A pioneer in Spain in techniques such as image-guided radiotherapy or brachytherapy, he attends a large number of foreign patients through Barcelona Medical Center (BCM). Benjamín Guix is the medical director of the foundation.
What is brachytherapy?
Brachytherapy is a way to treat a tumor with radiation by placing radioactive sources into the patient. The main advantage is that in this way a very high radiation dose is applied at specific points without the need to go through other healthy tissues close to the organ or to the area that is interesting to treat. It's like a remote-controlled treatment.
How is this goal achieved?
First, and after applying a bit of local anesthesia in the area to be treated, applicators should be placed which will be the path followed by external radioactive sources.. By means of image control, with an ultrasound or with a scanner, very fine catheters are introduced into the affected area and then a scanner or tac is made so that the computer can calculate the dose distribution, that is, the speed and time the radioactive source must stop at each of the points. The dose in each of them is practically negligible but the sum of all is capable of totally destroying the cancer cells without irradiating the surrounding healthy cells. The objective of this type of treatment is to heal without injuring and preserving the organs.
Can brachytherapy, by itself, eliminate all cancer cells, or should it be complemented by another type of treatment?
In some cases, brachytherapy is one hundred percent curative by itself, while in others, it has to be combined with external radiotherapy because you need to have wider safety margins.. In any case they are very individualized treatments that vary according to the nature of each case.
Which tumors are usually treated more with this technique?
First of all the prostate. In this case, this technique gives phenomenal results: in ten years of follow-up in Spain, more than 98% of the people treated have overcome the disease with minimal sequelae, being able to make life practically normal in all respects. Brachytherapy has also been used for many years in the treatment of gynecological tumors, since surgery can be counterproductive in many cases; It is also widely used in breast tumors, allowing excellent aesthetic results. We have treated patients for more than twenty years with phenomenal results. In addition, better techniques are being developed that make treatments more comfortable, faster and less aggressive.
With brachytherapy also reduce the side effects of a treatment of this type?
Our challenge is to cure better without the need to cause sequelae; that after six months or ten years of finishing some of these treatments, the patient does not even remember that he has done it. This is our greatest satisfaction, that the bologic price of the cure is minimal. The treatments that best achieve this goal are radiotherapy and brachytherapy.