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Education in gynecological brachytherapy

Abstract

Brachytherapy is an essential component in the curative treatment of many gynecological malignancies. In the past decade, advances in magnetic resonance imaging and the ability to adapt and customize treatment with hybrid interstitial applicators have led to improved clinical outcomes with decreased toxicity. Unfortunately, there has been a shift in clinical practice away from the use of brachytherapy in the United States. The decline in brachytherapy is multifactorial, but includes both a lack of exposure to clinical cases and an absence of standardized brachytherapy training for residents. In other medical specialties, a clear relationship has been established between clinical case volumes and patient outcomes, especially for procedural-based medicine. In surgical residencies, simulation-based medical education (SBME) is a required component of the program to allow for some autonomy before operating on a patient. Within radiation oncology, there is limited but growing experience with SBME for training residents and faculty in gynecological brachytherapy. This review includes single institutional, multi-institutional and national initiatives using creative strategies to teach the components of gynecological brachytherapy. These efforts have measured success in various forms; the majority serve to improve the confidence of the learners, and many have also demonstrated improved competence from the training as well. The American Brachytherapy Society launched the 300 in 10 initiative in 2020 with a plan of training 30 competent brachytherapists per year over a 10 year period and has made great strides with a formal mentorship program as well as externships available to senior residents interested in starting brachytherapy programs. Moving forward, these curricula could be expanded to provide standardized brachytherapy training for all residents. SBME could also play a role in initial certification and maintenance of certification. Given the burden of disease, it would be valuable to develop similar training for providers in low and middle income countries.

  • cervical cancer
  • brachytherapy
  • gynecologic surgical procedures

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