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Intraoperative Radiation Therapy (IORT) for Early-Stage Breast Cancer

February 19, 2021

OVERLAND PARK, KAN. – The Women’s Cancer Center at The University of Kansas Cancer Center now offers intraoperative radiation therapy, or IORT, for early-stage breast cancer patients who are treated with lumpectomy. We are the first and only cancer center in Kansas and Missouri to offer the innovative treatment.

IORT is a single radiation treatment given at the time of lumpectomy, following tumor removal. The safe and studied procedure allows women to avoid conventional breast radiation therapy, which typically starts a month after cancer surgery and requires daily treatments for up to 6 weeks. 

“By offering this treatment, our patients avoid having 15 to 20 radiation treatments after their lumpectomy. They are done with treatment immediately following surgery and can get back to their lives,” said Kelsey Larson, MD, breast surgical oncologist.

“We eliminate the stress of having weeks of additional appointments, which saves travel, time and money for our patients ‒ especially our rural patients who won’t need to travel for radiation treatments or local patients who cannot take time away from work and family,” Dr. Larson continued. “At this particular time, during the COVID-19 pandemic, it helps ensure patient safety and reduces the chance of exposure.”

Single-dose delivery

IORT is delivered during surgery using a miniature radiation device that is inserted into the lumpectomy incision. The radiation oncologist works alongside the breast surgical oncologist during the procedure. The breast surgeon prepares the operative field, inserting the radiation device into the lumpectomy cavity, then leaves the suite during radiation treatment. Once complete, the breast surgeon then returns to the suite to close the incision.

With IORT, a single dose of therapeutic radiation is directed immediately and precisely where it is needed most – the spot where the cancer was removed. The treatment takes 20 to 30 minutes. Dr. Larson says localizing the radiation inside the breast is effective because this is where the cancer is most likely to recur. The treatment also minimizes radiation exposure to healthy tissue and organs.

While conventional radiation therapy has been highly successful in preventing breast cancer recurrence, it can cause a range of side effects. The most common side effect being fatigue. Other side effects include dryness, itching, swelling and skin color changes in the area receiving radiation. There is also radiation delivered to nearby healthy tissue and organs.

Dr. Larson says women with small, early-stage breast cancer (tumors of 3 centimeters or less) will be eligible for IORT. She says the procedure provides better cosmetic results, can be performed in women with breast implants and leads to improved overall survival. Initially, IORT will be offered at The University of Kansas Health System’s Indian Creek Campus.

Nationwide, more than 44,000 women have received IORT since 2007, when the treatment was first offered. IORT, which has been used to treat other types of cancers, was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1999.


Betty Dickinson's Intraoperative Radiation Therapy Story

Betty Dickinson:

So I went, not thinking or worried about a thing.

Speaker 2:

Betty Dickinson and her girlfriends kept their annual girls' day mammogram appointment, despite the pandemic. She felt safe, but she didn't expect to be singled out for further testing.

Betty Dickinson:

They kept checking and then they went back and rechecked and then they told me that they'd saw something and they wanted to do a different mammogram. And then they did the biopsy, said, yes, it was cancer.

Speaker 2:

Getting her regular screenings paid off. Early detection allowed her to try a new radiation cancer treatment called IORT.

Dr. Kelsey Larson:

It's really a wonderful benefit to our patients and to offer something so innovative.

Speaker 2:

And the timing of this new therapy couldn't be better during a pandemic. Dr. Kelsey Larson is a breast surgical oncologist at The University of Kansas Cancer Center.

Dr. Kelsey Larson:

IORT stands for Intraoperative Radiation Treatment for breast cancer. This is a technique for giving people who are having lumpectomy, radiation in a single dose in the operating room at the same time as their surgery, rather than having to come in for multiple visits over several weeks.

Speaker 2:

Making it safe and more convenient for people like Betty, trying to stay close to home and safe during COVID.

Dr. Kelsey Larson:

Betty was a great patient that could have this type of treatment because she lives a little ways away from the KU Cancer Center. So she would have to drive quite far in order to receive her treatment.

Speaker 2:

It's a game changer for patients like Betty, who caught her cancer early.

Dr. Kelsey Larson:

There are so many benefits to IORT for breast cancer. So the recurrence and the survival are just as good as doing a longer course of radiation. And actually, the survival is better doing IORT because of some of the side effects that can happen with traditional radiation. In addition, patients who get IORT have improved cosmetic appearance after the surgery.

Betty Dickinson:

They removed it. Did the radiation. I'm all healed up pretty much. And I think I'm good to go.

Speaker 2:

Betty took her diagnosis and treatment in stride and was glad to quickly put this behind her.

Betty Dickinson:

I had faith in my team. So I didn't really worry too much about it.

Speaker 2:

Dr. Larson reminds us that screening is key for better outcomes and better treatment options.

Dr. Kelsey Larson:

It allows them to have their best cancer care and get back to their life sooner.

 

To learn if you may be eligible for IORT, call 913-588-1227.

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