Brachytherapy for oesophageal cancer

Medical doctor or nurse talking to an older woman patient

Cancer of the oesophagus can be treated by putting a radioactive source inside your body for a few minutes. This type of internal radiotherapy is called brachytherapy ("Brack-ee-therapy").

This can help to slow down the growth of cancer cells. Different doses can be given but often a high dose rate is given for a very short time.

Getting brachytherapy for oesophageal cancer

Your doctor will spray the back of your throat with local anaesthetic. A fine tube is then placed in your oesophagus through your nose. Then your doctor will take an X-ray to help him plan the treatment.  

Once the planning has been done, the radioactive source will be put into the tube. It will travel to the area to be treated, gives the treatment and then returns safely to the machine. The planning X-ray lasts about 1 hour and the treatment itself takes about 10 minutes. Once the tube is removed, you can return home. No radioactivity will be left in your body so it is safe for you to mix with family and friends. Usually, only one or two treatments are needed.


The treatment may cause nausea and soreness when swallowing. These may happen a few days after treatment and last for a few days. Your doctor can prescribe medication to help with swallowing and ease any nausea and soreness. You will not have any hair loss with this treatment.

If you feel unwell or have any other side-effects or symptom – during or at any time after treatment – tell your doctor, nurse or radiation therapist.

For more information

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1800 200 700

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