A New Frontier in Treating Early Stage Breast Cancer
In addition to the convenience of consolidating weeks of radiation treatment into one session, initial findings show that the recovery time is comparable to that of undergoing lumpectomy alone. The risk of cancer recurrence is also similar between IORT and external radiation therapy.
“In a select group of women, IORT offers the chance to have a single radiation dose at the time of surgery,” explains Lauren Schnaper, MD, Director of the Sandra & Malcolm Berman Comprehensive Breast Care Center at GBMC. “It is an attractive alternative to repeated whole breast radiation treatments over an extended period of time. Not everyone is eligible for this type of procedure. The tumor must be a certain size and have favorable behavioral characteristics. IORT is not recommended for young women or those with ductal carcinoma in situ.” Albert Blumberg, MD, radiation oncologist at GBMC, elaborates: “The tumor itself should be deep enough in the breast to allow one centimeter between skin surface and the balloon surface of the radiation device. Ideal candidates are 60 or older, although those in their 50s could be considered if other criteria are met.”
There appear to be fewer side effects with IORT as well. Since the treatment occurs under the skin and within the breast tissue itself, skin damage and irritation is reduced. With the highly concentrated dose of radiation being precisely directed to the lumpectomy cavity, other surrounding healthy tissues and organs, including the lungs, heart and ribs, receive reduced radiation exposure.
“This technology is helping women to receive treatment quickly so they can get on with their lives,” says Dr. Blumberg. “We’re proud to be able to offer it as an option in their cancer care.”