Partial Breast Radiotherapy

Most women with early-stage breast cancer are able to have breast-conserving surgery (lumpectomy) followed by radiation instead of mastectomy. Lumpectomy removes the cancer, and radiation targets any cancer cells that may be left behind.

Instead of treating the whole breast with radiation, partial breast radiotherapy targets only the area immediately affected by the cancer. The most common method of delivering partial breast radiotherapy is internally (brachytherapy). There are two kinds of brachytherapy to treat breast cancer: multi-catheter brachytherapy and balloon-catheter brachytherapy (MammoSite ®).

In multi-catheter brachytherapy, tiny catheters are sewn under the skin in the area where the cancer was, and they are held in place with stitches. The ends of the tubes stick out through little holes in the skin. Radioactive seeds are then placed into the tubes just long enough to deliver the prescribed dose.

In balloon-catheter brachytherapy, a special tube with a balloon on the end is used. The balloon is placed into the lumpectomy cavity. The tube comes out through a little hole in the skin. Stitches are not needed. During each treatment, a radioactive seed is placed into center of the balloon just long enough to deliver the prescribed dose of radiation. Ten treatments usually are given over a period of five days, meaning two treatments per day performed about six hours apart.

The latest development in the treatment of breast cancer is accelerated stereotactic partial breast radiotherapy (MammoFocusâ„¢). Non-invasive, requiring no catheters or balloons, this therapy requires the radiologist to place a tiny gold marker near the lumpectomy cavity. Using computer-calculated three-dimensional beams of radiation (stereotactic)

MammoFocusâ„¢ aims the beams directly at the surgical cavity. Not only does this spare surrounding healthy tissue and organs, it allows a higher dose of radiation to be delivered. Done on an outpatient basis, treatment time is once a day for five days.