SEATTLE, April 7, 2003 -- Earlier this month, the Swedish Cancer Institute (SCI) became the first cancer program in the Puget-Sound region to begin offering a new treatment for breast cancer, called the Mammosite® Radiation Therapy System (RTS). A form of brachytherapy (radiation delivered internally vs. externally), this new procedure offers a treatment alternative for some breast-cancer patients.
The Mammosite brachytherapy procedure can be used on patients undergoing a lumpectomy (breast-cancer surgery in which only the cancerous lump and a small amount of normal, surrounding breast tissue is removed). Key benefits of the new procedure include fewer treatment sessions for patients and less radiation exposure after surgery to remaining, healthy tissue.
During the lumpectomy procedure or shortly afterward, a catheter with a special balloon on its tip is guided through the breast until it reaches the area where the tumor was removed. Once the balloon is placed here, it is filled with a saline solution and remains inflated throughout the treatment period.
Then, when the patient returns for outpatient treatment, a small radioactive source or "seed" is inserted inside the inflated balloon for a specified amount of time and removed. After the last day of treatment, the balloon and catheter are also removed. The goal of brachytherapy is to prevent recurrence of breast cancer by targeting radiation to the area of the breast where tumors are most likely to recur.
By internally delivering radiation directly to the tissue surrounding the original tumor, this procedure maximizes the dose delivered to the area most at risk of breast-cancer recurrence. At the same time, it minimizes radiation exposure to the rest of the breast, skin, ribs, lungs and heart. Additionally, treatment lasts for a much shorter period of time than traditional external-beam radiation therapy. Mammosite RTS includes two treatments a day for five consecutive days, while external beam can consist of daily (Mon.-Fri.) treatments for six to seven weeks.
Studies, including a recent article published in the April 2001 issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology, have found that brachytherapy treatments for breast cancer result in lower rates of cancer recurrence in the breast. While initial studies are very promising about brachytherapy and its use as an alternative to standard therapy, more experience over time with the procedure is needed to substantiate these findings.
"This treatment, like any other, needs to be carefully evaluated on a patient-by-patient basis," said SCI Radiation Oncologist Vivek Mehta, M.D. "Women with breast cancer who have questions about whether or not this treatment is right for them should talk with their physician."
For more information, call 1-800-SWEDISH (1-800-793-3474) or visit www.mammosite.com