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Health Information Treating Breast Cancer in Its Early Stages

Women with early stage breast cancer now have a new treatment option available to help reduce recurrence of the disease. The new treatment uses a miniaturized X-ray source that can deliver localized and targeted radiation treatment in virtually any clinical setting under the supervision of a radiation oncologist. Rush is the first medical center in the Midwest, and the second in the country, to treat breast cancer patients using the Xoft system.

"This approach provides the potential to reduce the time required for radiation therapy for early stage breast cancer from seven weeks (for external radiation therapy) down to five days. As a result, more patients may decide to receive treatment. This may accelerate patient choice of breast sparing lumpectomy surgery with adjuvant radiation therapy over the alternative of a full mastectomy," says surgeon Kambiz Dowlat, MD.

With the new electronic brachytherapy system the cancer treatment is delivered in 10 to 15 minutes, two times a day, for five days straight. Recent studies have shown that many patients decide not to receive breast-sparing surgery with radiation therapy due to time, distance or difficulty accessing radiation therapy centers.

Dowlat says a key component that sets the electronic brachytherapy apart from radiation regimens that involve radioactive isotopes, is that the X-ray source can be turned on and off at will, enabling it to be delivered in virtually any clinical setting rather than in heavily shielded environments. "The result is on-demand X-ray treatments that we expect will result in increased access to critical radiation therapy," says Dowlat.

Radiation therapy is used to treat more than one million cancer patients a year. It is administered after breast-sparing surgery with the goal of killing stray cancer cells that might remain in the breast. It is proven to reduce the rate of local recurrences and improve long-term survival.

Data from several randomized controlled clinical studies has demonstrated that radiation therapy is an essential component of treatment for breast cancer when the patient wishes to conserve her breast with lumpectomy surgery as opposed to undergoing a full mastectomy.

"We have incorporated electronic brachytherapy into our breast cancer arsenal because we strongly believe that this technology represents a leap forward in cancer treatment," says Dowlat. "However, as important as the clinical benefits are, the true breakthrough may relate to improved access to a critical therapy that is delivered more easily and conveniently. We hope this encourages women who may have opted for mastectomy or lumpectomy without radiation therapy to explore breast conserving treatment options with their breast surgeon and radiation oncologist."

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Please note: All physicians featured in Discover Rush Online are on the medical faculty of Rush University Medical Center. Some of the physicians featured are in private practice and, as independent practitioners, are not agents or employees of Rush University Medical Center.

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