Typically, when treating breast cancer, some type of surgery is performed to remove the tumor. After breast-preserving surgery, external beam radiation is typically given for six weeks. While this is a common technique, it can create unwanted side effects and impact your quality of life. Intraoperative Radiation Therapy (IORT) is a new cancer treatment which uses electron beam radiation to directly treat a tumor bed or residual tumor during surgery.
IORT offers many advantages over conventional surgery with radiation therapy including radiation is given immediately after the tumor is removed, physician has direct visualization of tumor bed, healthy tissue is excluded or protected from the radiation field, critical organs within the radiation field, such as the lungs and heart, can be protected.
During breast-preserving surgery, or lumpectomy, an incision is made in the breast. The breast tissue is separated from the pectoral muscle below and the skin above. The tumor and a rim of normal surrounding tissue are removed.
Next, a protective disk is placed under the breast tissue to shield the deeper tissues from the radiation beam. The Novac 7, a mobile linear accelerator, is moved into place and an applicator tube attaches the linear accelerator to the breast tissue.
For typically less than 2 minutes, the linear accelerator delivers a high dose of radiation to the tumor bed. The beam kills any residual tumor cells in the area to prevent recurrence of the cancer in the breast.
The disk is removed and the breast is then closed with sutures, utilizing nearby breast tissue to fill the area where the cancer was removed.
A lumpectomy with IORT can add approximately 30 minutes to the total procedure time of 1 hour. However, IORT can often replace conventional external beam radiation treatment, reducing the time before the patient resumes her normal activities.
Most breast cancer patients who are candidates for a lumpectomy followed by radiation could be ideal candidates for IORT.
IORT may be used to give a boost (or large application) of radiation to other tumor sites in the body including: head and neck, lung, esophagus, stomach, pancreas, rectum, gynecological, prostate, and soft tissue sarcoma.