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Lumpectomy treatment of choice

Monday, September 13, 2004
Courier & Press staff writer

After consulting with her doctors, Amy Kroeger chose to have a lumpectomy to remove a cancerous tumor from her breast, followed by traditional external beam radiation therapy.

Lumpectomy - surgically removing the cancer and a small margin of healthy tissue surrounding the cancer - followed by six weeks of radiation therapy, has become the treatment of choice for many breast cancer patients.

But compliance with the radiation treatment plan has become an issue for some because of the amount of time it takes to complete the therapy, especially for women living in rural areas who have to travel long distances to receive treatment.

To address compliance problems, the Food and Drug Administration in 2002 approved the MammoSite Radiation Therapy System for brachytherapy in early stage breast cancer patients after a lumpectomy. Brachytherapy involves surgically delivering a high dose of radiation directly to the tumor site and surrounding breast tissue through multiple catheters (up to 24) implanted in the breast. It is generally used to supplement external beam radiation.

With the Mammosite delivery system only one balloon catheter is implanted in the breast, said Evansville Cancer Center radiation oncologist and Medical Director Dr. Al Korba. He said a radioactive isotope is then delivered through the catheter into the balloon to the lumpectomy cavity to radiate a smaller area of the breast.

The high intensity radiation coupled with the ability to deliver treatment directly to targeted breast tissue reduces treatment time to five days instead of six weeks using external beam radiation. There are no side effects from treatment and fatigue and skin irritation is minimal.

"One of the trade-offs is you are not treating the entire breast. It does nothing for disease outside the area," Korba said. That is why is extremely important that patients recommended for MammoSite therapy have a low probability that the cancer has spread to other sites in the breast. "Right now it's a very select group of people who are getting MammoSite," Korba said.

Evansville Cancer Center was among the first facilities in the United States to receive FDA approval to offer MammoSite for breast cancer patients and is involved in a national clinical trial to evaluate MammoSite therapy. For more information, call Evansville Cancer Center at 474-1110.

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