The Montefiore Hospital has introduced an innovative radiation treatment for early stage breast cancer which will mean certain patients can be treated in just one day.
Most patients with early stage breast cancer undergo a lumpectomy to surgically remove the tumour. Following surgery, the standard treatment is daily radiation over several weeks to ensure that any remaining cancerous cells are destroyed to lessen the risk of the cancer re-occurring.
Now, thanks to a procedure known as intraoperative radiotherapy or IORT, the Montefiore's breast surgeons and clinical oncologists can administer a single high dose of radiation to the site of the tumour during the operation. The patient wakes up having received a full treatment and is able to return to their daily routine much more quickly.
Although IORT has been extensively trialled in the UK, it is not yet widely available and the Montefiore Hospital is one of the first in the country to offer the treatment to appropriate stage 1 and 2 breast cancer patients. Breast Consultants Mr Riccardo Bonomi and Mr Charles Zammit carried out the first operations on Thursday April 18 at the hospital.
One of the patients who received the IORT treatment said afterwards: "It feels almost surreal – instead of struggling through radiotherapy, I've had one operation on one day and now the cancer is no longer hanging over me. Given the circumstances, the experience was as good as it could be and I would advocate this treatment to all women."
Mr Bonomi said: "As well as the physical effect, cancer has an enormous emotional impact on patients and we believe that quality of life is a very important factor for recovery. Not having to make a daily trip to hospital for the next six weeks will allow our patient to get on with getting better. Access to this single dose technique makes the whole treatment process so much easier for her and other patients"
Mr Zammit said: "The IORT system we are using has been developed in America and the Montefiore is one of the first hospitals in the UK to use it. This particular system not only reduces treatment time to less than 10 minutes, but it also reduces radiation exposure to healthy tissues and organs. Our goal is to eradicate the cancer cells by safely administering a high dose of radiation to a targeted area.
"However not all breast cancer patients are suitable for IORT as there are specific criteria that indicate when it should be used. For example, it is not usually recommended for patients under 45 years of age or where the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes. We want to offer IORT as a treatment option to all eligible patients and hope that as many as possible will benefit," concluded Mr Zammit.