Breast tumors are often treated with a combination of tumor removal followed by external beam radiotherapy to the whole breast. This has been found in several studies to result in the same cure rate as total breast removal. Sadly, only one third or so of women choose to keep their breast. One of the reasons for this low number may be that the external radiotherapy can take as long as 7 weeks to give, and this can be too much time away from home or work for some women.
CHI Health has a treatment program which uses 5 days of partial breast brachytherapy (temporary radiation implant) instead of 5 - 7 weeks of external beam radiotherapy. This shorter time period is a great benefit to all patients, but especially working women, those who live far away from a radiation treatment center, and those who just want to get the treatment over with as quickly as possible.
The brachytherapy procedure involves placing some flexible plastic catheters (tiny tubes) into the breast.
The procedure is performed by a board-certified radiation oncologist and is done under ultrasound guidance. Nine times over the following 5 days, the catheters are briefly connected to our high-dose-rate brachytherapy machine for an internal radiation treatment through the catheters. These treatments take about 15 minutes each and are painless. On Friday, the catheters are easily removed, and you will be able to go home on the same day. During the 5 days of treatment you will be an outpatient. You will not be radioactive, and you can do most of your usual activities during that period.
Although brachytherapy is a very popular and proven treatment for cancer, using brachytherapy instead of external beam radiation for breast cancer is a recent idea. Currently, the results from brachytherapy appear to be at least as good as the results seen after whole breast external beam radiotherapy. However, even if the results are approximately the same, brachytherapy still has the advantages of being a shorter treatment, and irradiating less of the body. CHI Health has strict eligibility guidelines for patients who are candidates for partial breast irradiation. Please contact your physician for more information.