As a general surgeon and medical director of TEPAS Breast Center, I feel it’s important to always encourage patients to be as informed as possible on the risks and benefits of any surgery, treatment or procedure, including radiation therapy.
For breast cancer patients undergoing conventional radiation therapy treatment, clinical protocol normally warrants daily radiation treatments, over a 5-to-7 week cycle. Under most circumstances, conventional treatments, otherwise known as “traditional radiation therapy” are performed on patients after breast-conserving surgery in hopes of decreasing breast cancer re-occurrence; post-mastectomy in patients with cancer tumors larger than 5 cm, or when cancer has been detected in one or more lymph nodes. With traditional radiation therapy, patients undergo high-energy, targeted radiation focused on destroying cancer tumor cells.
The most common and traditional radiation treatment option is external beam radiation, where the treatment area is targeted from outside the body. The second most popular radiation option is brachytherapy, commonly known as internal radiation. With this option, radioactive seeds and/or pellets are placed inside the breast tissue in close proximity to the cancer; targeting directly toward the cancer cells.
Unfortunately, though effective, traditional radiation therapy can leave patients with many side effects including swollen, red areas on the skin and extreme fatigue. Both radiation applications have shown a great degree of positive outcomes for multiple patient populations, and in certain situations, the clinical protocol I still choose to follow. However, in contrast, I also find non-traditional “targeted radiation therapy” easier for patients to tolerate due to decreased toxicity and side effects; less complications, and better cosmetic outcomes.
The fact of the matter is there are several options for targeted radiation therapy to deliver high doses of radiation to cancer locations, while also decreasing the chances of damage to the surrounding tissue. As an example, California-based Cianna Medical is one company producing a one size fits all balloon type catheter surgically placed inside the breast tissue (normally five to seven days) delivering individualized radiation to the tumor location. This targeted radiation therapy minimizes exposure to healthy breast tissue with only one week of therapy, in contrast to the 5-to-7- week time frame warranted under conventional treatments.
In addition, Hologics, another healthcare diagnostics company, also offers a five-day targeted therapy option through surgical catheter insertion. Clinical studies performed on this type of therapy have also shown to be well tolerated by patients, with minimal side effects. Additional advantages include a perfectly designed catheter for placement inside the lumpectomy cavity (location where cancer tumor was removed), to deliver radiation to the area where cancer predominantly is likely to reoccur.
My hope is this article sheds light on the multiple radiation treatment disciplines for breast cancer patients. For more information on radiation therapy options with TEPAS Breast Center, call 321-312-4178.
Read the full article on Florida Today.