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article imageBreast cancer: New single-dose treatment offers hope

By Megan Hamilton     Jul 7, 2014 in Health
Chicago - A new treatment option for breast cancer is likely to make things a little less complicated for women dealing with the early stages of the disease.
This new treatment consists of a single, concentrated dose of radiation which can be done at the same time as lumpectomy surgery. This is time-saving for most women with breast cancer, since they often have to visit the hospital daily for post-surgical radiation treatments — sometimes for up to six weeks, according to Science Daily.
The treatment is even able to remove microscopic amounts of cancer that are left behind after the cancer is surgically removed, the Mayo Clinic reports.
After the cancer is removed, a device that’s similar to a catheter with a balloon on the tip is slid into the lumpectomy cavity and inflated with saline. Once in place, it delivers the radiation directly, thus managing to avoid other organs, Science Daily reports.
The treatment may be well-suited for other types of breast cancer as well.
“We currently perform IORT for women with early-stage breast cancer,” Dr. Katherine Kopkash, assistant professor of surgery, Rush University Medical Center (RUMC), said in a statement, according to Science Daily. “However, there is exciting research about using this modality for other types of patient, including those with breast cancer recurrences or those who are undergoing a nipple-preserving mastectomy.”
Since the treatment shortens the amount of time a patient has to receive treatments, it also shortens her hospital stay as well
“While recovery time from surgery with intraoperative radiation therapy is the same as surgeries performed without IORT, the patients’ overall time spent in the hospital receiving treatments for breast cancer is drastically decreased,” Kopkash said. “This option allows patients to return to their lives faster by potentially reducing the need for further therapies and enhancing their quality of life. IORT can be an especially important treatment option for women who live in rural areas and must travel a great distance for their breast cancer treatment.
Living in a rural area presents a huge obstacle when a woman has to repeatedly return for radiation treatment, and sadly, these women often choose to have a mastectomy in order to avoid the need for radiation, Kopkash noted.
While not widely available in the U.S., this treatment has been available in Europe since the 1990’s Science Daily reports. It’s gradually being used more extensively in the United States over the past decade and has been studied in clinical trials, and RUMC began treating patients with its IORT unit last February.
How common is breast cancer in the U.S?
The American Cancer Society (ACS) has some sobering statistics:
• Approximately 232,570 new cases of invasive breast cancer are reported yearly.
• 62,570 new cases of carcinoma in situ (CIS) of the breast will be diagnosed. CIS is non-invasive and is the earliest form of breast cancer.
• There are about 40,000 deaths from breast cancer each year.
• Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the United States, other than skin cancer, and it’s the second leading cause of cancer death in women, after lung cancer.
The chances of a woman having invasive breast cancer during her life are about one in eight, and the chances of dying from breast cancer are about one in 36, according to ACS. Death rates from this disease are on the way down, probably because breast cancer is being found earlier and better treatments are available. Right now there are more than 2.8 million survivors of breast cancer in the U.S.
More about Breast Cancer, singledose treatment, Science daily, lumpectomy, Rush University Medical Center
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