The relatively new treatment, intraoperative radiation therapy (IORT), delivers one precise, concentrated dose of radiation to the tumor site immediately following surgical removal of the cancer.
After the breast cancer is removed, a catheter-like device with a balloon at the tip is inserted into the lupectomy cavity. The balloon is inflated with saline and the radiation therapy source docks precisely into the catheter to deliver radiation to the breast tissue surrounding the cavity where the tumor was removed, while avoiding radiation to nearby organs. At the end of radiation treatment, the balloon is deflated and easily removed and the cavity is closed.
“We currently perform IORT for women with early-stage breast cancer. However, there is exciting research about using this modality for other types of patients, including those with breast cancer recurrences or those who are undergoing a nipple-preserving mastectomy” said Dr. Katherine Kopkash, assistant professor of surgery, Rush University Medical Center.
Typically, breast cancers treated with a lumpectomy require radiation therapy following surgery to ensure the lowest risk of recurrence. Standard radiation treatment requires patients to return after healing from surgery to begin daily radiation treatment to the entire breast five days per week, for a total of three to six weeks.
“While recovery time from surgery with intraoperative radiation therapy is the same as surgeries performed without IORT, the patients’ overall time spent in the hospital receiving treatments for breast cancer is drastically decreased. This option allows patients to return to their lives faster by potentially reducing the need for further therapies and enhancing their quality of life,” Kopkash said.
IORT can be an especially important treatment option for women who live in rural areas and must travel a great distance for their breast cancer treatment,” said Kopkash. “The distance creates a real obstacle for women to repeatedly return for radiation treatment. Unfortunately, these women often choose to have a mastectomy in order to avoid the need for radiation.”
IORT has been used in Europe since the 1990s. It started being used more extensively in the United States about a decade ago and has been studied in clinical trials.
Source Newsroom: Rush University Medical Center