Sarah Cannon HCA Midwest Health cancer network at Research Medical Center is renowned for its advanced technologies and resources such as the area’s only suite for high dose rate (HDR) image-guided brachytherapy.

HDR Brachytherapy may be used to treat such conditions as:

  • Uterine (endometrial) cancer
  • Cervical cancer
  • Prostate cancer
  • Breast cancer

Benefits of HDR

HDR treatment is noninvasive. Patients receiving this treatment for cervical cancer do not have to undergo major surgery, while patients receiving this treatment for uterine (endometrial) are often able to avoid five weeks of whole-pelvis external radiation therapy. The cancer is irradiated from inside the body, so it does not pass through healthy tissues and organs. Patients walk out from HDR treatments with minimal side effects.

The radiation dose is delivered in minutes, so there is no opportunity for the radiation source to shift from where the doctor intended. HDR is temporary brachytherapy. After the treatment, nothing is left behind in the patient so radiation exposure to others is eliminated.

“The biggest plus of HDR over low dose rate (more-prolonged) implant therapy is that we have complete control over exactly what radiation doses will be delivered to the cancer and to the nearby organs since we eliminate the uncertainties caused by patient and organ motion,” John Sheldon, MD, radiation oncologist.

HDR brachytherapy allows radiologic oncologists to deliver a high dose of radiation to a tumor or target area while minimizing radiation dose to normal tissues.

The Treatment Process

Research Medical Center patients get to stay in one suite for all aspects of this procedure – no moving from room to room. They are given preparation, sedation, positioning, CT imaging, computer planning, and the HDR treatment in one room. Then patients recover and go home the same day - typically within three to four hours. Sedating the patient helps physicians deliver the treatment with the greatest precision while also sparing the most healthy tissue. Research Medical Center can eliminate the requirement for patients getting radiation treatment to have to lay still and isolated in a hospital bed for two days, which can also increase the chance of other complications.

Treatment begins when the catheters are connected to the tubes of the afterloader, a sophisticated apparatus that houses the radiation. Programmed instructions tell the afterloader where to direct the radiation and for how long [usually about 10 to 15 minutes] while the physician monitors the patient. The entire treatment process takes 30 to 90 minutes (including anesthesia, imaging, and computer planning) depending upon each particular patient’s cancer diagnosis.

When the treatment is completed, the radiation source is retracted back into the HDR afterloader with no radiation left behind in the patient. After the treatment, the implant is removed and the patient goes home soon afterward.

Several treatments may be necessary depending on the severity or location of the cancer. For uterine (endometrial) cancer, three short outpatient treatments are administered instead of five weeks of external radiation therapy. For cervical cancer, outpatient treatments are utilized instead of two inpatient hospitalizations for radiation treatment.


One exciting new advancement for gynecologic cancer patients is image-guided brachytherapy. Brachytherapy, better known as internal radiotherapy, is commonly used in the treatments of cancers of the uterus or cervix. Video features Dr. John Sheldon.

“Once I realized the capabilities of HDR technology, I made a commitment to offer this sophisticated treatment to all my patients,” explains John Sheldon, MD, radiation oncologist. “The accuracy is better: we are certain of the dose, there’s more control and you know what the doses are before the treatment actually begins. And there are relatively few side effects.”

High-dose-rate image-guided brachytherapy may also be used to treat prostate and breast cancers.

Sarah Cannon HCA Midwest Health at Research Medical Center is proud to offer the most advanced technologies such as HDR image-guided brachytherapy, as well as linear accelerators to deliver image-guided intensity modulated radiation therapy, a 16-slice intra-operative big bore CT scanner, a 64-slice CT scanner for the clearest images to diagnose and stage tumors for treatment, and advanced treatments such as Mammosite® for breast cancer.

Sarah Cannon HCA Midwest Health at Research Medical Center offers each patient a full range of treatment options and services including an outpatient facility, a dedicated inpatient oncology unit and unparalleled specialized expertise.

Additional Information

Visit to take a self-assessment or schedule a cancer screening.

For cancer-related wellness opportunities, Research Medical Center offers patients a variety of wellness services at the Center for Integrative Therapy.

Commission on Cancer logoResearch Medical Center is an accredited facility by the American College of Surgeons

Contact Us

Sarah Cannon HCA Midwest Health
2316 E Meyer Blvd
Kansas City, MO 64132
(816) 276-4700