What is Intraoperative Radiation Therapy?

What is Intraoperative Radiation Therapy?

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If you are considering a lumpectomy (instead of a mastectomy), read this….

Doctors at Northwestern Medicine are currently utilizing a novel approach to whole breast radiation therapy for their patients with early stage breast cancer called Intraoperative Radiation Therapy.

Traditionally, women who opt to have a lumpectomy must first have surgery, then take 4 weeks to heal & then undergo approximately 6 weeks of whole breast radiation. With Intraoperative Radiation Therapy, a Radiation Oncologist is literally in the operating room during the initial lumpectomy & administers radiation to the tumor bed immediately following the removal of that tumor. When the patient wakes up from surgery, she will have received the same amount of radiation therapy that is typically administered over a 6 week period. Initial findings indicate that this single-dose radiation is as effective as whole breast radiation therapy in limiting recurrence for women with early stage breast cancer.

Advantages of Intraoperative Radiation Therapy include (but are not limited to):

  • less patient travel & fewer appointments; fewer side effects; better cosmetic results;
  • immediate reconstruction can occur;
  • adjuvant chemotherapy can be scheduled without conflict;
  • faster recovery.

Disadvantages include (but are not limited to):

  • small risk of infection;
  • a limited # of facilities offer this procedure;
  • may be difficult to monitor dosage to radiation site;
  • surgeon & radiation oncologist schedules must be carefully coordinated;
  • not enough evidence of long term results.

Research is being done on using Intraoperative Radiation Therapy to treat other cancers as well.  To learn more about this novel approach to traditional whole breast radiation therapy, check out Medical News Today and as always, talk to your doctor.

For information on support services please visit our Cancer Support Services page.

(Sources: About.com; Medical News Today (April 13, 2011) ; Breastcancer.org)

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