Limiting radiation exposure for breast cancer patients
Thomas B. Daniels, MD, is a radiation oncologist at Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center in Phoenix, Ariz.
Question: What are the options to limit overall radiation exposure for breast cancer patients who receive radiation as part of their treatment?
Answer: Over the years, much has changed in how breast cancer is treated. Mastectomy used to be the only surgical treatment. Today, women have options that allow them to preserve their breast, including removal of the tumor through lumpectomy, followed by radiation.
After a lumpectomy, whole breast radiation has typically been standard. This involves daily outpatient radiation treatments for about six weeks. However, certain patients with early-stage breast cancer may be eligible for brachytherapy, also known as accelerated partial breast irradiation (APBI). This treatment targets the cavity left by the lumpectomy, an area where cancer cells may remain and where cancer is most likely to recur. Through brachytherapy, radiation is delivered internally to the breast using a catheter which remains in the breast during the course of treatment.
The SAVI is a multi-catheter device considered the latest evolution in breast brachytherapy treatments. With the SAVI catheter’s unique design, a radiation oncologist can select the exact target area and customize the radiation dose to spare normal tissue in surrounding areas like the skin, lungs and heart, even if these are very close to the lumpectomy cavity. Overall treatment time is reduced to five days, twice-daily treatments with this option, and cosmetic and tumor control outcomes have been outstanding. If the patient goes on to receive chemotherapy, radiation will already be completed.
A woman who has been diagnosed with breast cancer should discuss her treatment options with her doctor, to determine which course of action will be most effective based on her particular case.