MIAMI (CBS4) — Radiation therapy uses high energy x-rays to kill cancer cells. After a lumpectomy, where only a portion of the breast is removed, radiation is sometimes necessary to treat the remaining breast tissue. Traditionally the standard radiation treatment takes between six and seven weeks to complete.

Shortened treatment therapies allow radiation in a reduced amount of time, but new guidelines indicate that those shortened treatments may not be suitable for everyone. When a new technology called MammoSite allowed a compression of the time needed for radiation, patients were thrilled.

“In the early 90s this device was developed which originally was a balloon with a catheter placed in the center and you can place, remotely, a radioactive source right into the balloon after it’s placed in the breast and deliver a high dose of radiation in a short period of time,” said Dr. Anne Lewis, a radiation oncologist. “You do that twice a day six hours apart for five days and you get the biological equivalent of delivering the 6 1/2 or 7 weeks of whole breast radiation.”

Since MammoSite first came on the scene approximately 32,000 patients have been treated with it. But recently the American Society of Radiation Oncologist suggested that some women are not suitable for the MammoSite treatment and should be getting the traditional whole breast radiation.

“The suitable category is women 60 or older, who have smaller tumors that are 2 centimeters or less, about an inch or smaller, and don’t have other features that can suggest an increased risk of potential for more tumor in the breast such as the lymph/vascular invasion,” said Dr. Lewis.

So, what this means is that although MammoSite’s shorter treatment times are attractive, not everyone should get that shortened treatment. More studies comparing full treatment with the fractionated treatment are needed.


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