Ultrasound a powerful tool in partial breast irradiation therapy

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A new study presented at RSNA 2006 today has assessed the effectiveness of ultrasound in guiding the placement of balloon catheters used in partial breast irradiation therapy with brachytherapy. In this type of treatment the cancerous breast lump is surgically removed and radiation is directed just to tissue surrounding the lumpectomy site. Brachytherapy has a shorter treatment time of five to seven days, compared to conventional whole-breast methods that can run six to seven weeks.
"Women with breast cancer have many serious decisions to make in a short amount of time, including decisions regarding radiation therapy," said Lora D. Barke, DO, assistant professor at Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University and Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. "This procedure, which uses ultrasound to precisely guide balloon catheter placement to the lumpectomy site for partial breast irradiation treatment, removes one weighty decision women must make before surgery."
The balloon catheters are sometimes placed during surgery. However, the catheter can sometimes be placed unnecessarily, because later findings reveal that localized radiation is not appropriate or the breast tissue overlying the balloon is too thin.
"Our research shows that immediate placement of the balloon catheter is unnecessary and may add to cost. Radiologists can wait until receiving the final pathology, and then safely and efficiently insert the catheter with ultrasound guidance immediately before the patient begins brachytherapy," Barke said. "This allows time to determine if brachytherapy is appropriate for the patient and allows the patient and physician to consider and weigh the benefits of various treatment options," she added.
The researchers studied ultrasound guidance of balloon catheter placement into the lumpectomy cavities of 75 new patients with early-stage breast cancer seven to 47 days after their lumpectomies. After a period of evaluations, the investigators came to the conclusion that ultrasound-guided placement of partial breast irradiation balloon catheters is safe, efficient and minimally invasive. It also doesn’t take very long. The typical procedure time is just 25 minutes.