Your Health: Treating Breast Cancer With New Technology
Published October 9th, 2013
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- It's a perfect example of technology changing the way we treat cancer.
For thousands of women diagnosed with early stage breast cancer, treatment frequently consists of surgery followed by weeks of radiation. But new technology is changing that timeline.
Accelerated Partial Breast Irradiation, known as APBI, has been around for quite some time.
But newer technolgies can now deliver more targeted treatment, offering healing in a much quicker time frame.
Elaine McCall Taylor was diagnosed with stage one breast cancer after getting her annual mammogram. Surgery and radiation were decidely the best option for treatment. But just what type of radiation to have, was a difficult choice.
"I just asked Dr. Grow, 'If this were your diagnosis, what would you do?'" Taylor says, "and she said, 'Absolutely I would have the SAVI device,'"
So Taylor elected to have the SAVI treatment. It's a type of catheter that delivers targeted radiation into the cavity that's left after a tumor is removed.
Unlike other APBI catheter treatments, the SAVI device uses several small catheters instead of a single catheter inside a balloon. It can deliver different doses of radiation to different parts of the breast tissue, so doctors say it can better acommandate areas close to the skin or the chest wall.
Dr. Allison Grow is a radiation oncologist at North Florida Regional Medical's Cancer Center, and one of Taylor's doctors.
"After surgery there's the possibility that a few microscopic cancer cells are left behind," Dr. Grow says, "all it takes is a few cells for a risk of recurrence later, so radition cleans up those few cells that are left."
It's designed to work like traditional radiation. But instead of treating the whole chest area, it treats a very targeted area of cells. While it is considered a more invasive procedure, the length of treatment is often the most appealing aspect.
Typically, patients using APBI therapies have to go to five days of treatment, visiting twice a day. In comparison, older radiation therapies are usually delivered once a day for six weeks.
"The majority of women if you give them the choice between the longer time scale and the shorter time scale are totally going to go for it," Grow says.
The SAVI device is a relatively new type of brachytherapy, approved by the FDA in 2006, but it's one that doctors recommend patients ask about when researching treatment options.
"Each patient ideally should have the opportunity to consult with her surgeon, a radiation oncologist, and her medical oncologist before any care is given," Grow says, "because that's when the best decision making happens."
Taylor took that advice to heart. And now - cancer free - says she's happy with her treatment.
"Find physicians that you're really comfortable with that you feel they would give you the advice they would give their family or themselves," Taylor says.
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