Current controversies in high-dose-rate versus low-dose-rate brachytherapy for cervical cancer

Alexandra J. Stewart, Akila N. Viswanathan

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


The use of brachytherapy in the treatment of cervical cancer has increased worldwide since its initial introduction over 100 years ago. However, certain aspects of the use of high-dose-rate (HDR) versus low-dose-rate (LDR) brachytherapy continue to be controversial, particularly the role of HDR in FIGO Stage III cervical cancer and the use of HDR with concurrent chemotherapy. This study represents a systematic literature review of prospective and retrospective series of patients with cervical carcinoma treated with external-beam radiation (EBRT) followed by either HDR or LDR radiation. The local control rates, survival rates, and treatment-related complications in patients with Stage III cervical cancer treated with HDR or LDR and those treated with concomitant chemotherapy are examined. Patients with Stage III cervical cancer treated with EBRT and brachytherapy have a local control rate of >50% in most series. Randomized prospective and retrospective studies show overall statistically equivalent local control, overall survival, and complication rates between HDR and LDR. However, LDR may be preferable for large, bulky tumors at the time of brachytherapy. Retrospective studies of HDR and concurrent chemotherapy are limited but have demonstrated toxicity rates similar to those with LDR. Selected patients with Stage III cervical carcinoma who have an adequate response to EBRT and concomitant chemotherapy may be treated with HDR brachytherapy. The existing literature shows no significant increase in complications in patients treated with HDR and concurrent chemotherapy; however, sufficient tumor shrinkage prior to HDR and careful monitoring of the dose to the normal tissues are imperative.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)908-915
Number of pages8
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Concomitant chemotherapy
  • High-dose-rate (HDR) brachytherapy
  • Low-dose-rate (LDR) brachytherapy
  • Stage III cervical cancer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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