Cancer Treatment Saves Time and Breasts

Article Sourced from Rush University Medical Center

IORT-Surgery-story-imageTherapy may eliminate need for repeat visits, mastectomies

Some women with early-stage breast cancer now may be able to replace weeks of daily radiation treatments with just one dose of radiation that is delivered at the time of lumpectomy. This procedure, known as intraoperative radiation therapy, or IORT, eliminates the need for ongoing radiation treatments that can consume a great deal of patients’ time and energy.

Traditional breast cancer treatment involves daily radiation, delivered from outside the breast, five days per week, for six to eight weeks. In contrast, IORT involves one concentrated dose of radiation which is precisely delivered to the lumpectomy cavity, immediately following surgical removal of the cancer. Rush University Medical Center has been treating patients with IORT with the ­­Xoft Axxent Electronic Brachytherapy (eBx) System since early 2014. The Xoft System is FDA-cleared for the treatment of cancer anywhere in the body, including early-stage breast cancer, non-melanoma skin cancer and gynecological cancers. IORT also offers other patient benefits, including fewer side effects and shorter treatment times.

“While recovery time from surgery with IORT is the same as surgeries performed without IORT, patients’ overall time spent in the hospital receiving treatments for breast cancer is drastically decreased. This option allows patients to return to their normal activities sooner than traditional treatment by potentially reducing the need for further therapies,” says Katherine Kopkash, MD, assistant professor of surgery, who helped develop the IORT program at Rush.

IORT also offers patient benefits for those living in rural areas who must travel a great distance for their breast cancer treatment. “Having to travel back and forth for repeated treatments can create a real obstacle for breast cancer patients,” Kopkash says. “Unfortunately, some of these women may elect to have mastectomies in lieu of traditional treatment in order to avoid returning for multiple radiation treatments.”

“IORT also may offer psychological benefits for patients, as spending hours a day, many days a week for up to eight weeks at the hospital generally makes women feel like ‘cancer patients.’” Kopkash says. “Treatment with IORT helps patients transition into survivor mode more quickly.”

How it works

Breast surgeons and radiation oncologists work together in the operating room to administer one precise, concentrated dose of radiation to the tumor site at the time of lumpectomy. Once the tumor is removed, a catheter-like device with a balloon-shaped applicator at the tip is temporarily inserted into the lumpectomy cavity. Within the balloon applicator is the Xoft System’s proprietary miniature X-ray device, which delivers a single dose of radiation in as little as eight minutes. This targeted treatment kills cancerous cells while sparing healthy tissue, such as the heart, lung, and ribs. When the single dose of radiation has been delivered, the balloon is deflated, removed and the cavity is closed.

Rush is one of a select group of medical centers in the Midwest participating in a national clinical trial to assess the safety and efficacy of IORT. From early 2014 to mid-2015, Rush has treated more than two dozen patients with IORT, none of whom required further radiation treatment.

Learn more about IORT or the Xoft System.