Breast Cancer Treatment

Breast Cancer Treatment

If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer, your management team will include a surgeon, a medical oncologist and often a radiation oncologist.  Your surgeon will determine the type of surgery that is necessary to remove your breast cancer.  Your medical oncologist will decide if drugs, such as chemotherapy and hormones should be a part of your treatment plan.  If radiation therapy is needed, the surgeon or medical oncologist will recommend a consultation with a radiation oncologist, a doctor who specializes in the treatment of cancer with radiation therapy.

At the Carol G. Simon Cancer Center, breast cancer is treated with two types of radiation therapy:

External Beam Radiation Therapy (EBRT)

External beam radiation therapy treats the breast with radiation beams from outside of the body over a five to seven week period.  This treatment is an outpatient procedure that is delivered on weekdays.  The breast patient is positioned on a special table, while the radiation machine (linear accelerator) sends radiation beams to the breast from different angles.  The linear accelerator does not touch the body, and there is no discomfort.  At Carol G. Simon Cancer Center, we use the most advanced radiation technologies including Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT).  With IMRT, radiation can be delivered to the affected breast sparing nearby healthy tissue from radiation harm.  This is especially beneficial when treating tumors located near the heart and lungs. 

Side effects of external beam breast radiation may include:

  1. fatigue
  2. mild breast swelling
  3. sunburn-like skin reaction

These side effects are temporary and will improve over time.

High Dose Rate (HDR) Brachytherapy

High Dose Rate Brachytherapy is a technique that places radioactive sources inside the body in close proximity to the cancer cells.  Some breast cancer patients may be eligible to have Mammosite® Brachytherapy, a treatment method that delivers radiation directly to the lumpectomy site.  The radioactive source is delivered through a hollow tube (Mammosite® catheter) that has been positioned in the breast by your surgeon.  The radiation source is a solid radioactive material attached to the end of a flexible wire, which is stored in a machine called an afterloader.  The afterloader delivers the wire tip into the positioned Mammosite® catheter where it stays for several minutes. In general, this procedure is done twice a day for 5 days.  After the tenth treatment, the Mammosite® catheter is removed by the radiation oncologist. 

Side effects of HDR Brachytherapy to the breast may include:

  1. mild fatigue
  2. mild breast discomfort

Some breast patients may receive a combination of external beam radiation therapy and HDR Brachytherapy.