Partial Breast Radiation Therapy
Women with early breast cancer have a number of treatment options available to them. One option is mastectomy, which is the surgical removal of the entire breast. Another option is breast-conserving therapy (BCT), which allows a woman to keep her breast. The most common scenario of BCT involves a lumpectomy (a relatively minimal surgery to remove just the breast cancer and not the entire breast) followed by six weeks of external beam radiation therapy. The goal of radiation therapy in this setting is to prevent recurrence of the cancer while keeping the breast. Both mastectomy and BCT have similar cure rates. Women are encouraged to thoroughly discuss the options with their physician.
With BCT, the external beam radiation therapy following lumpectomy involves treatment to the entire breast. The treatment is given Monday through Friday for a treatment course lasting approximately 6 weeks. In contrast to daily radiation, partial breast radiation therapy (PBRT) is a form of high dose rate brachytherapy (internal radiation) used in the treatment of breast cancer. PBRT gives a high dose of radiation where the cancer was located (the “tumor bed”) in a short period of time when compared to the six weeks of external beam treatment. During the PBRT outpatient procedure, a small balloon is placed within the tumor bed. A tiny radioactive seed is placed in the balloon via a small thin tube. A high dose of radiation is delivered only a short distance from the radioactive seed directly to the tumor bed, killing any cancer cells that may be a source of recurrence. In general, the PBRT treatment is given twice daily for a five-day period and is very well tolerated by most patients. The appropriateness of PBRT depends on several factors: size of the cancer, location of the cancer within the breast and pathologic characteristics of the cancer. All breast cancer patients are encouraged to talk with their surgeon and ROS physician to find out if PBRT is an option for them.