Upstate News

June 9, 2003
Darryl Geddes 315 464-4828

New radiation treatment for early stage breast cancer now available at University Hospital

A new radiation treatment for women with early stage breast cancer that significantly reduces the course of therapy from six weeks to five days is now offered at University Hospital.

The therapy, called MammoSite Radiation Therapy System, is a minimally invasive method of delivering a prescribed dose of radiation after lumpectomy surgery for breast cancer. The device targets radiation to the area where the tumor was and is more likely to recur, while minimizing exposure to healthy tissue. The device was approved by the Food and Drug Administration last spring.

The MammoSite device is a balloon catheter that is inserted into the cavity created by the lumpectomy during removal of the breast tumor. During therapy, a tiny radioactive seed attached to a wire is inserted into the balloon, delivering a prescribed levels of radiation to the targeted tissue surrounding the cavity. The balloon remains inflated for the entire duration of the radiation treatment. After the course of treatment has ended the balloon is deflated and removed. No source of radiation remains in the patient’s body between treatments or after the final procedure.

“This form of therapy offers a more direct delivery of radiation than traditional external beam radiation thus making treatment shorter and more convenient for the patient,” said University Hospital surgeon Kara Kort, M.D., who along with radiation oncologist Pankaj S. Dalal, M.D., are the only Central New York physicians trained in the procedure.

Kort said traditional external beam radiation therapy following a lumpectomy usually requires about 30 sessions or five sessions a week for approximately six weeks. MammoSite therapy only requires two treatments a day for five days.

“For many women the logistics of undergoing six weeks of treatment is sometimes difficult to arrange, and often this rigorous treatment schedule influences a woman’s decision to opt for more extensive surgery, such as mastectomy over a lumpectomy, in order to avoid radiation therapy,” she said.

A study by the National Cancer Institute found that 25 percent of lumpectomy patients do not receive radiation treatments and the likelihood of forgoing such therapy increases the farther a woman lives from the radiation treatment center.

But Kort noted that the benefits of the MammoSite system may lead some women who had decided on a mastectomy to consider a lumpectomy as a treatment option for early stage breast cancer. “This decision is one that should be made by the patient in consultation with family and physicians, but as more and more women look for options to preserve their breast, lumpectomy with a MammoSite radiation therapy may become a preferred course of treatment for them.”

Another benefit of the MammoSite treatment is that radiation therapy can begin immediately after surgery, once pathology reports confirm the entire tumor has been removed. External beam radiation usually does not begin until the breast has had time to heal from surgery, which can several weeks.

Follow-up studies for the MammoSite therapy are in place to determine the recurrence of breast cancer in patients receiving this therapy and how it compares to women who receive external beam radiation, the current standard of care.

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