Most early stage
are treated, at least initially, with surgery. The main goal of breast cancer surgery is to completely remove the tumor from the breast. There are two types of surgery for breast cancer:
Breast conserving surgery also known as a
lumpectomy, or a wide excision or partial
The surgeon removes the breast tumor and some normal tissue around it and attempts to conserve as much of the patient’s breast as possible.
, which is the complete removal of the breast.
Most women who are treated with breast conserving surgery are also treated with
radiation therapy. This is because undetectable microscopic cancer cells may be left behind after surgery. Radiation therapy is used in an attempt to destroy these remaining cancer cells and reduce the chance for the recurrence of the disease. Unfortunately, in addition to destroying cancer cells, traditional radiation therapy affects normal, healthy breast tissue as well. To help minimize this damage, radiation therapy is generally delivered in carefully measured doses over a period of 6-7 weeks.
An alternative to traditional radiation therapy is internal radiation therapy, also called
brachytherapy. This type of radiation therapy allows the radiation source to be placed inside the breast as close as possible to the cancer cells. Radioactive material is placed directly into the site where the tumor was removed, allowing the radiation to concentrate on any remaining cancer cells while minimizing damage to the surrounding normal breast tissue. These implants are removed after a short period of time.
A device called MammoSite is one method that provides an alternative to traditional radiation therapy for women who have had a cancerous lump removed from her breast by lumpectomy.
The MammoSite radiation therapy system (RTS) is a single, small balloon catheter that fits inside the cavity left behind by the removal of the cancerous tumor. Then, a tiny, radioactive seed, which is connected to a machine called a high dose rate remote-afterloading device, is inserted into the balloon. It is this seed that delivers the radiation therapy, effectively focusing the highest levels of radiation directly on the area of the breast at the highest risk for cancer recurrence.
When used alone, treatment with MammoSite is usually done twice a day for five days, greatly reducing the usual time required for radiation therapy.
Brachytherapy may offer real benefit to women who must be treated with radiation therapy following a lumpectomy. If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer, speak with your radiation oncologist to see whether you are a candidate for lumpectomy and whether brachytherapy may be an appropriate treatment choice for you.
Breast cancer in women. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated January 3, 2014. Accessed January 14, 2014.
MammoSite: FDA 501K summary. US Food and Drug Administration website. Available at: http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/cdrh_docs/pdf9/K091378.pdf. Published July 7, 2009. Accessed January 14, 2014.
MammoSite: How it works. MammoSite website. Available at: http://www.mammosite.com/breast-lumpectomy/how-it-works.cfm. Accessed January 14, 2014.
Treatment options for different stages of breast cancer. The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation website. Available at:
http://ww5.komen.org/Content.aspx?id=5378. Updated September 20, 2013. Accessed January 14, 2014.
Vargo JA, Verma V, et al. Extended (5-year) outcomes of accelerated partial breast irradiation using MammoSite balloon brachytherapy: patterns of failure, patient selection, and dosimetric correlates for late toxicity. Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 2014 Feb 1;88(2):285-291.
Last reviewed January 2014 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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