Another type of radiation therapy is accelerated partial-breast irradiation. This therapy is for some women with early-stage breast cancer who undergo a lumpectomy to remove the cancer. Typically, radiation is given after the lumpectomy to lower the risk of a cancer recurrence, making it as effective as the woman undergoing a mastectomy.
This treatment delivers a higher dose of radiation to a smaller area of the breast in the area where the lumpectomy was done, which reduces the risk of damage to healthy tissue surrounding the breast, like the heart and lungs. Treatments are given over a shorter time than traditional external beam radiation therapy.
There are different types of accelerated partial-breast irradiation.
Multi-Catheter Internal Radiation
Also called interstitial needle-catheter brachytherapy, this treatment uses radioactive seeds placed inside very small catheters, stitched into place under the skin. The seeds deliver radiation to the area where the cancer was removed. The treatment times can range from a few hours to a few days, and when completed, the catheters, seeds, and stitches are removed.
Balloon Internal Radiation
This treatment places a tube with a balloon at one end of the breast at the site where the cancer was removed. The tube and balloon can be placed during the lumpectomy or in a surgeon’s office afterward.
During each treatment, a radioactive seed is placed into the center of the balloon. The treatment lasts 5 to 10 minutes, long enough to deliver the required radiation dose. It is done twice a day for 5 days. Once treatments are completed, the tube and balloon are removed through a small hole in the skin.
3D Conformal External Beam Radiation
This treatment delivers radiation to a small treatment area that matches or conforms to the area with cancer. Information from a CT scan or MRI of the breast is used to map a treatment field for the area at risk. Radiation beams from different directions are delivered to the treatment field. Focusing the radiation on this precise area helps reduce damage to normal tissues caused by radiation.