An innovative new method of one-time radiation treatment is allowing breast cancer patients a new lease on life. Early-stage breast cancer can be treated with this radiation therapy directed in the cavity from where the tumour has been removed during surgery.

A team of faculty and community doctors at Emory University Hospital Midtown in Georgia, US, has already started treated patients with the Intraoperative Radiation Therapy (IORT) method during surgeries for breast cancer. The first patient was treated with IORT at Emory University Hospital Midtown on Nov 4.

Low-energy X-rays are delivered directly into the tumour bed during surgery, immediately following a partial mastectomy by targeted IORT – an individualised radiation treatment. The machine delivers a dose of radiation through a spherical applicator directly in the cavity to ensure contact with the target tissue. Only the area that faces highest risk of tumour recurrence receives the radiation, while radiation to healthy tissue is minimised.

Karen Godette, associate professor of radiation oncology at the School of Medicine and medical director of the radiation oncology department at Emory University Hospital Midtown, said, “IORT is a good option for patients undergoing breast-conservation surgeries,” in a press release. “They can receive a single, targeted dose of radiation to the tumor bed during their surgical procedure, without radiating the entire breast,” she explained.

Rogsbert Phillips, a physician at Emory University Hospital Midtown, said, “Proper selection of patients for this procedure is key; the best candidates are usually women aged 50 and above who have early-stage breast cancer, or small tumours that have not spread to other areas of the body,” in the press release. “This procedure is not appropriate for patients with aggressive breast cancers, such as triple-negative breast cancer or metastatic breast cancers,” he added.

The delivery time for this one-time radiation treatment is 20-45 minutes – depending on the cavity size. Supplemental radiation is not required by most patients, following IORT for breast cancer.

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