The future of Breast Cancer Treatment is here Today with Intraoperative Radiation Therapy (IORT)
Advances in surgery and radiation therapy make breast cancer treatments safer and more convenient than ever before. Standard radiation therapy usually involves as many as 33 treatments given five days per week. With IORT JFK’s radiation oncologists can deliver an equivalent dose of radiation in a “single fraction” or treatment session lasting just a few minutes, while also preserving more healthy tissue. This treatment reduces radiation exposure and its side effects, as well as the time spent going back and forth to the hospital.
IORT is a practical and safe alternative to standard whole breast radiation therapy for many patients. It is administered to the inside of the breast during surgery, immediately after removal of the cancer. For many patients, after awakening from anesthesia, both the breast surgery and radiation therapy are completely done. Most eligible patients won’t need to undergo any additional radiation therapy. The remaining patients still benefit from IORT as a “boost” during surgery followed by 3 to 5 weeks of external beam radiation therapy.
How does Intraoperative Radiation Therapy work?
IORT is a practical and safe technique that is done while you’re still in surgery. The radiation dose you need is aimed directly at your exposed tumor area, while surrounding healthy tissue is moved aside and protected. Reducing the amount of tissue that is radiated reduces both early and late side effects. The entire dose of radiation is delivered at one time, with no further need for radiotherapy treatments after surgery. IORT offers some of the following advantages:
Maximum effect. IORT delivers a concentrated dose of radiation to a tumor site immediately after a tumor is removed, helping to destroy the microscopic tumor cells that may be left behind. The tumor site is typically at highest risk for local recurrence. Traditional radiation therapy requires a recovery period after surgery, which leaves microscopic disease in the body for longer. This delay may also make the tissue more resistant to the effects of radiation.
Spares healthy tissues and organs. During IORT, a precise radiation dose is applied while shielding healthy tissues or structures, such as the skin, the heart, and the lungs, that could be damaged using other techniques. This allows a higher radiation dose to be delivered to the tumor bed, while sparing normal surrounding tissues.
Shortened treatment times. IORT helps some patients finish treatment and get back to their lives more quickly by reducing the need for additional radiation therapy. Standard treatment lasts typically five to six weeks.
Benefits of IORT
Saves time: For patients who are eligible for single dose treatment the entire therapeutic dose of breast radiation is given immediately at the time of lumpectomy (removal of the tumor) while the patient is still under anesthesia. This allows the patient to return to normal life more quickly.
Convenience for patients: Traditionally, breast cancer patients would need to come back to undergo radiation therapy for five days a week for up to three to six weeks after they heal from surgery. For some patients who undergo IORT, there are typically no return trips for radiation.
Targeted radiation therapy: Radiation is given directly and internally to the sections of the breast with the biggest risk of cancer recurrence.
Team approach: The Radiation Oncologist is in the operating room with the surgeon.
Decreased side effects: Because the skin is protected during IORT, it has been found to decrease side effects such as red rashes and skin irritations that occur during traditional radiation therapy.
Who is a candidate for IORT?
A patient must be a surgical candidate in order to be eligible for IORT. This treatment is generally reserved for individuals with early-stage disease. Your doctor will discuss whether IORT is an appropriate treatment option for you, based on your individual diagnosis, tumor characteristics, and personal preference.
For more information or to schedule an appointment to see if you are a candidate for this procedure call (561) 548-4JFK (4535).