Radioactive sources in close contact offer an alternative to superficial radiation in the treatment of skin lesions. A flattening filter was designed for a lead surface applicator to improve the skin dose distribution of a high dose rate (HDR) brachytherapy unit (Nucletron). At three heights from the opening (10, 15 and 25 mm) of the cylindrical applicator, the 192Ir source can be driven into the centre of the applicator. Thin sheets of lead foil (0.2 mm) were cut into circular shapes and placed in the opening to build a cylindrical cone that acts as a flattening filter. The shape of the cone was optimized in an iterative process using a spreadsheet and the resulting dose distribution under the applicator was determined using radiosensitive film. The use of the filter improved the dose distribution in a plane perpendicular to the beam axis to be within +/- 5% of the central axis dose. The present applicator and flattening filter together with an HDR brachytherapy unit offer an alternative for skin irradiation where a superficial unit is not available or will be replaced with a more flexible device. As the depth dose characteristics can be modified using different source-to-surface distances, the dose throughout the patient's skin can be shaped as desired by the radiation oncologist using a compensator design type approach.
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