Brachytherapy allows shorter radiation course for breast cancer

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BOSTON—Accelerated partial breast irradiation (APBI), using a radiation seed implant called balloon brachytherapy, can shorten radiation therapy from the standard six to seven weeks of treatment to only one week. In addition, it is as effective in keeping breast cancer from coming back as external beam radiation treatment, according to a study presented Monday at the 50th annual meeting of the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology (ASTRO).

“Not only does it make radiation treatment much more convenient, it may actually increase the rate of breast conservation, since some women choose mastectomy because they live too far from a radiation center and cannot afford the time and expense of six to seven weeks of living or traveling to the center,” said the study’s lead author Peter Beitsch, MD, a surgical oncologist at Medical City Dallas Hospital in Dallas. “Also, there are many women who for a host of reasons don't receive the necessary postoperative radiation and the shortened course should hopefully allow more women to receive the therapy that they need.”

According to the researchers, during this type of breast brachytherapy, after the tumor has been removed from the breast, the doctor inserts a small balloon into the cavity. That balloon is then attached to a catheter that delivers high doses of radiation via tiny radioactive seeds into the lumpectomy cavity.

The American Society of Breast Surgeons’ MammoSite RTS Registry Trial evaluated data from more than 1,400 women with early-stage breast cancer, who were treated with balloon brachytherapy using the MammoSite Radiation Therapy System, one type of breast brachytherapy.

In the study, the investigators followed up with 400 women for nearly four years and results show that women with early-stage breast cancer, who are treated with APBI using this type of balloon brachytherapy, had the same chance of the cancer returning as those who had the standard radiation treatment.