Intraoperative Radiation Therapy (IORT) in breast cancer patients is a new single treatment modality which replaces the boost of external beam radiation therapy (EBRT), or in some cases the entire course of therapy, at the time of the lumpectomy. Radiation can be delivered accurately and safely in the operating room following removal of the tumor, and before the surgeon closes the incision. An IORT treatment is completed in 20-30 minutes. Single-Dose radiation treatment is now offered to low-risk breast cancer patients.
MedStar Health is the first in Maryland to acquire the INTRABEAM® Radiotherapy System, a novel radiation platform used to deliver IORT. Unlike whole breast radiation treatment, which is administered five times per week for as many as seven weeks, patients undergoing IORT receive a targeted, single-fraction treatment immediately following tumor removal – followed by a shorter whole breast radiation course, or no additional radiation.
Team members who deliver IORT include surgical oncologists, radiation oncologists, nursing staff and OR personnel, and medical physicists.
Benefits of Intraoperative Radiation Therapy
Besides precision and patient comfort, IORT in breast cancer offers significant medical and quality of life benefits, including:
1. Maximum effect while minimizing recurrence. IORT delivers a concentrated dose of radiation to a tumor site immediately after a tumor is removed, helping to destroy the microscopic tumor cells that may be left behind.
2. Spares healthy tissues and organs.During breast cancer IORT, a precise radiation dose is applied at low energy thus sparing healthy tissues just a few centimeters away from the tumor bed – such as skin, lungs, and the heart. This allows a higher, single radiation dose to be delivered to the tumor bed while sparing normal surrounding breast tissues.
3. Shortened treatment times. IORT helps patients finish treatment and get back to their lives quicker by reducing the length of breast cancer radiation therapy, eliminating part or possibly need for all external beam radiation treatment.
4. A boost for whole breast cancer radiotherapy patients. Patients who must receive additional breast radiation therapy following surgery can receive a boost of radiation during IORT. After they have recovered from the surgical procedure, they can continue with their radiation treatments, with typically fewer complications.