BRACHYTHERAPY FOR BREAST CANCER TREATMENT
Another method of delivering radiation therapy to the breast area is brachytherapy. Instead of using a linear accelerator to aim an external beam of radiation at the breast, brachytherapy uses a radioactive source that is placed directly into the area where the tumor was.
After the cancerous lump is removed, the surgeon inserts a device, the SAVI, consisting of a cluster of thin tubes, into the cavity. A machine called an afterloader threads a radioactive source into each hollow tube, one at a time. By adjusting the time the source stays in each location, it is possible to tailor the dose to the area affected. In other words, the amount of radiation reaching the tissues is optimized for the size and location of the tumor bed.
A CT scan and a computerized program plot the precise placement of radioactive source to insure that the entire area receives an even dose of radiation, with the least amount of tissue damage.
This procedure is repeated twice a day for five days. You are free to leave the hospital between treatments. Because the entire course of radiation can be delivered in a short period of time than with an external beam, this method is also called accelerated partial breast irradiation, or APBI.
Brachytherapy with SAVI
Brachytherapy vs. External Beam Radiation Therapy
Studies have shown that brachytherapy and external beam therapy are similarly effective in destroying cancer cells within the breast, and reducing the chance of local cancer recurrence. The main advantage of brachytherapy is that women who do not have easy access to a radiation therapy facility five days a week, for five to seven weeks, can complete a course of treatment in five days. This may make the difference between choosing lumpectomy with radiation, or settling for a mastectomy.