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|Ask The Expert : Shorter Radiation Treatment for Breast Cancer |
ASK THE EXPERT
Shorter Radiation Treatment for Breast Cancer
|Andrew Kenler, MD|
I’ve been hearing about a new
kind of post-surgery radiation
treatment for breast cancer
that only takes five days to
complete. Please tell me more!
Surgeon Andrew Kenler, MD,
After surgery, radiation therapy is used to target any stray cancer
cells that may remain. Standard therapy sends an external beam
of radiation to the outside of the breast in the area of the cancer, and generally takes about
six or seven weeks of outpatient treatments. The new, shortened
form of radiation treatment, used after breast-conserving
lumpectomy (removal of the cancerous lump only), is
called brachytherapy (brake-ee-therapy). It uses a strong
source of radiation, which is delivered right inside the affected
area of the breast. This technique is safe for patients
because the radiation is delivered to a small area for just
minutes at a time. Most women find the one-week course
of therapy much preferable to six or seven weeks!
There are two techniques. The first, called the multiple
catheter technique, involves placing 10 to 12 thin tubes, or
catheters, into the breast, surrounding the area where the
tumor was removed.
The second, balloon brachytherapy, involves just one
balloon-tipped catheter. It is placed into the cavity where
the tumor was removed and is then inflated to fill the
cavity. Both of these catheterization procedures are done
under local anesthetic. Once the catheter(s) are in place,
they remain for five days.
Radiation treatments are then given on an outpatient basis
twice a day for five days. During each treatment, a tiny
pellet of radioactive material is threaded through the
catheter(s) for several minutes. The pellets are then removed,
and the patient may go about her normal routine.
At the end of the five days of treatment, the catheters(s)
Not all women are candidates for brachytherapy. It is most
effective when the removed tumor was small, no cancer
cells were found at the outer edges of the tumor, and few
lymph nodes were involved.
Side effects for breast brachytherapy are rare, and include
inflammation, infection, and bruising, all of which can be
treated or last only a short time.
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