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Radiation During Surgery

Radiation During Surgery

Frequently Asked Questions

I’ve heard something recently about "radiation during surgery"? What is that?

It is a treatment option where, during surgery, a doctor removes a cancerous tumor and, immediately following, a radiation oncologist applies a concentrated dose of radiation directly to the tumor bed. This type of treatment option is relatively new and not the standard of care for radiation treatment.

It is currently a technology that is offered locally (in Linn County) only through a clinical trial, as research continues to be conducted to determine its effectiveness. Because of this, it is only offered to early stage breast cancer patients and only a small group of patients who would meet certain criteria. Doctors don’t agree on whether intraoperative radiation therapy is a good alternative to whole-breast radiation after lumpectomy, which is the standard of care. More research is being done to help figure out which women may be good candidates for intraoperative radiation therapy during lumpectomy instead of whole-breast radiation after lumpectomy.

How effective is traditional radiation treatment compared to other options, like radiation during surgery?

The radiation plan of care provided by the Hall-Perrine Cancer Center is the standard of care in cancer treatment. It is well researched and has shown to be effective in producing quality outcomes. The results of hundreds of clinical trials and doctors’ individual experiences help radiation oncologists decide the course of treatment from which a patient would most likely benefit. This may include TomoTherapy, Trilogy, or high-dose rate brachytherapy.

The treatment option of radiation during surgery is not as well studied or researched and is currently offered locally (in Linn County) only through a clinical trial. It is unknown how effective it is, and there is no proof it is safer or better for the patient.

Does radiation during surgery have side effects?

Most early side effects from radiation during surgery to the breast are similar to those seen with external beam radiation to the breast. This may include increased firmness of the treated breast, among others. 

Does radiation during surgery allow a patient to finish treatment faster than traditional radiation?

A patient’s plan of care, which includes length of radiation treatment, will depend greatly on many variables, including type of cancer, stage, location, other health factors and any other cancer treatment the patient may be undergoing. To say radiation during surgery would, with certainty, allow you to finish treatment faster is inaccurate. Patients should also know that faster doesn’t always mean better in cancer treatment. We want to be sure patients are receiving the right course of treatment to produce the best possible outcome.

The Hall-Perrine Cancer Center does, however, also offer options to reduce treatment times and do so in a safe and proven way for the righti candidates. High-Dose Rate MammoSite® treatment, where a radioactive "seed" is placed within the breast to closely target the tumor, is an option that can reduce treatment from six weeks to five days. This treatment is standard of care and proven to produce quality outcomes, like external radiation therapy. MammoSite is a great option for patients that fit certain criteria and is proven to be effective in both outcomes and in reducing treatment time.

Does radiation during surgery allow me to receive less radiation exposure than traditional radiation?

No. The amount of radiation given for a care plan that includes inter-operative radiation therapy (IORT) is, in most cases, equivalent to traditional radiation treatment plans and is given while the patient is still under anesthesia. Depending on the treatment plan, eligible patients may or may not need to undergo additional radiation therapy at a later date.

Is there an age limit for patients who can receive radiation treatment?

No. What determines a patient’s ability to undergo radiation treatment relies on many variables, including type of cancer, stage, location, other health factors and any other cancer treatment the patient may be undergoing. Your physicians will work together to determine the best course of action for you as a patient.

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