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One of your breast cancer treatment options at the Stanford Cancer Center is a new method that makes it more convenient to receive radiation therapy after a lumpectomy. The procedure, called breast brachytherapy, temporarily delivers a radioactive seed directly into the breast where the tumor has been removed.
During the lumpectomy surgery, or in a separate procedure, a MammoSite catheter with a balloon at the tip is temporarily implanted into the breast zone where the tumor was removed. After surgery your doctor sends a radioactive seed directly to the tumor site by feeding it through the catheter. Whereas tradition radiation treatment after a lumpectomy can take as long as seven weeks, brachytherapy radiation treatment can be completed in as little as five days.
In addition to being convenient, the rapid completion of radiation therapy enabled by brachytherapy can also allow you to receive chemotherapy sooner, if appropriate. A further benefit of brachytherapy is that by precisely placing the radiation source inside your body, rather than having to direct a beam of radiation from outside the body, it allows doctors to deliver radiation to the tumor site while reducing the radiation that reaches healthy tissues such as your lungs, heart and skin.
Appropriate patient selection and expert surgical technique are both critical to the success of MammoSite Brachytherapy because clean margins must be present after the tumor is removed before it is advisable to limit radiation treatment to just the tumor site. Furthermore, the procedure may be more appropriate for some patients than others. For example, because of its size, the catheter is most easily implanted in women with large breasts, and specific tumor characteristics also determine whether a woman is a good candidate for brachytherapy.
Although MammoSite brachytherapy is available at other hospitals around the country, by receiving treatment in the setting of a clinical trial approved by the Stanford Institutional Review Board (IRB) you can be assured that if you are deemed an appropriate candidate, every care has been taken to maximize your likelihood of success.