Intraoperative Radiation Therapy (IORT) is a treatment that allows surgeons to give patients their radiation treatment during their breast-conserving lumpectomy procedure. Rose is the first Denver hospital to offer the Xoft Axxent electronic brachytherapy system to patients.
"Every time I talk to a patient about a breast-conserving lumpectomy, I have to make sure that we also include a discussion about radiation, because you can't have lumpectomy without radiation. The two come together," Dr. Barbara Schwartzberg with Rose Medical Center explained.
Typically, radiation following surgery involves treatment every weekday for five-to-six weeks. This is a burden for many patients logistically and medically. The treatment can sunburn the skin and lead to significant fatigue.
In the past few years, doctors have been able to offer some patients an accelerated partial-breast radiation course, which requires radiation twice a day for five days in a row.
IORT provides patients with early-stage breast cancer another option; an opportunity to have radiation treatment at the time of surgery. The trial at Rose is for patients 40 years or older with a single focus of cancer (invasive ductal carcinoma). During the lumpectomy procedure, the surgeon must confirm the cancer has not spread to the lymph nodes in order to proceed with IORT.
What happens next involves the precise placement of a radiation source internally, into the lumpectomy cavity. The use of lower-energy X-ray technology allows medical providers to be in the room with the patient during treatment.
"This little mini X-ray source is passed into this balloon that we've placed into the lumpectomy cavity, and the machine is turned on anywhere from seven to 10 minutes, but not very long. The machine is turned off, the radiation is complete and there's no more radiation exposure in the room. We just detach the machine, complete the operation, and the patient has not only had their breast surgery, but also their full course of radiation," Schwartzberg said.
In the past two months, more than a dozen patients have had the procedure at Rose.
"The skin may be slightly pink after the procedure, although often times not. But nothing like we used to see with the entire breast being sunburned," Schwartzberg said.
Anne Hetrick had her procedure a month ago.
"I went home and I felt fine. A little soreness and that's all I've had, I mean I feel great," she said. "It makes so much sense to me. And it seems so much more convenient than five days a week for five weeks."
Hetrick says she felt fine the next day as well.
"Other than not remembering a darn thing the day of the surgery because of the anesthetic, yeah, I felt great," she said.
For more information, visit www.RoseBreastCenter.com and http://www.xoftinc.com/treating_iort.php.
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