HDR Brachytherapy Treatment for Skin Cancer

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 have surgical skin cancer treatment, HDR Brachytherapy provides an effective treatment alternative with few side effects.

What are the Advantages of HDR Brachytherapy?

The Advantages of HDR Brachytherapy for skin cancer are: 

  • Customized for each individual patient 
  • Non-invasive
  • Non-scarring 
  • Performed in a convenient outpatient setting


For appropriate skin cancer 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 for skin cancer is considerably shorter (6-10 treatments vs. 30 treatments). Each HDR treatment lasts for about 3-5 minutes.


HDR Brachytherapy delivers a highly concentrated dose of radiation using the most advanced, state-of-the-art 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.

What is the Process of HDR Brachytherapy Treatment for Skin Cancer?

  • THE APPLICATOR – A piece of flexible plastic with many parallel tubes is placed on top of the skin lesion. This applicator is like a highway with many lanes and a tiny radioactive seed will travel down each tube.
  • THE CT SCAN – A CT scan is performed with the applicator resting on the skin. The CT scan lasts about a minute and is limited to the small area that needs to be treated. The scan requires no dye or contrast. 
  • THE PLANNING PROCESS – The CT scan images are then downloaded into the Oncentra® treatment planning computer. A life-like, 3-D model of the patient is then created from these images. The model allows for precise targeting of the area of the skin cancer. 
  • THE PLAN – Since each patient is different, each treatment plan is unique. Each plan is carefully tailored to the patient’s specific body shape and skin cancer. The final plan is customized to gently treat only the superficial skin and to “pull” the treatment away from the deeper tissues (i.e. the bone, muscle and deeper structures) that don’t need to be treated. 
  • THE TREATMENT – The patient arrives and the applicator is connected to the HDR treatment unit. A tiny radioactive seed then leaves the HDR unit, travels through this highway of tubes, rests over each part of the skin cancer for a few seconds and delivers the treatment. After about 5 minutes, the seed has traveled over every part of the skin cancer and the treatment is complete. After the treatment, the seed is securely returned back into the HDR unit. The patient feels nothing during the treatment.