Breast cancer treatment choices expand with a miniature balloon
A novel, FDA-approved catheter used to deliver breast radiation therapy from the inside out is available in La Crosse. With MammoSite, patients who meet selection criteria can have post-operative radiation therapy in only five days, compared to the six or seven weeks it used to take.
Gundersen Health System was one of the first 30 centers nationwide authorized to offer the MammoSite™ Radiation Therapy System (RTS), a promising catheter-based approach to partial breast radiation treatment. Since 2002, MammoSite procedures have been performed in Gundersen's Center for Cancer & Blood Disorders.
MammoSite delivers a highly conformal radiation dose directly to tissue where cancer would be most likely to recur, i.e., in the original tumor bed region. After a lumpectomy, a small balloon placed in the tumor cavity is filled with saline, gently allowing breast tissue to conform to its shape. Within days, a tiny seed of radioactive iridium (Ir 192) is inserted via a computer-guided catheter for a period of 5 to 15 minutes. After the final high dose rate brachytherapy session, the balloon is deflated and removed.
MammoSite RTS can shorten breast-conserving radiation therapy by as much as 85 percent. MammoSite has helped many more women choose breast-conserving surgery with less inconvenience. It may reduce or eliminate a barrier that keeps women from exploring this option. More importantly, MammoSite decreases radiation dose to surrounding critical structures, especially the heart when cancer is in the left breast.
While it is a welcome addition to the array of possible treatments, MammoSite is not an option for all breast cancer patients. Tumor size, stage and other aspects of each case must be evaluated individually. With proper selection, this treatment can be offered, resulting in breast preservation and reduction of the patient's risk of breast cancer recurrence.
The Center for Cancer & Blood Disorders continues to advance the use of partial breast radiation therapy by participating in research trials investigating partial breast radiation therapy for higher risk patients. With the completion of research trials, the hope is to expand the role of partial breast radiation therapy for breast cancer patients.