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Customized Device Provides Safe Breast Radiation From Within

By May 16, 2012

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SAVI Breast Brachytherapy Device
SAVI Breast Brachytherapy Device
Art © Cianna Medical Inc

For small breast tumors that are non-invasive, a lumpectomy is often a great option. Just the affected tissue is removed, plus a margin of healthy tissue for good measure. This is often followed by external breast radiation - but that can take at least 6 weeks of daily treatments, a hardship for many patients. Breast brachytherapy treats the tumor area from the inside, affects less tissue, and can take only 5 days. But does it work well in preventing a recurrence, and does it have side effects that can add up to the need for a mastectomy? Dr. Catheryn Yashar has been leading a study that covers four years of 50 patients experiences with the SAVI breast brachytherapy device. Her team presented their research recently at the European Society for Radiotherapy & Oncology (ESTRO) World Congress of Brachytherapy in Barcelona, Spain. The results of this long-term study look very good.

Breast brachytherapy, when used after a lumpectomy, is done to preserve the breast and prevent a recurrence of breast cancer. Brachytherapy is a method of treating the surgical cavity with radiation from the inside, using the lowest effective dose of energy. You may have heard of balloon brachytherapy - there are several devices in this class  - a soft bundle of catheters is inserted into the breast as needed, and during treatments, the device is connected to a radiation machine. Targeted and controlled doses of radiation are sent to the areas that need it the most, while healthy tissues are less affected. The idea of this type of treatment is to harm the cancer without harming the fewest amount of other cells that are nearby, resulting in few side effects and good cosmetic results. Balloon brachytherapy applicators expand into uniform spheres or ellipses, so the patient's breast must conform to the device. Strut-based brachytherapy applicators such as the SAVI can be expanded inside the breast in a customized configuration, fitting into the surgical cavity.

Dr. Yashar and her colleagues have studied the effects of strut-based breast brachytherapy for some time, and have noted the results. Since breast brachytherapy is still a relatively new way to provide breast radiation, they wanted to study a group of patients over time to see how they fared in comparison to those who had other types of treatments. They found that the strut-based brachytherapy applicator could be used with small-breasted patients and women whose tumors were fairly close to the skin, an advantage over balloon-based devices. The rates of breast cancer recurrence compared favorably with that of patients who had 6 weeks of external breast radiation. A few patients did have fibrosis, breast pain and a darkening of the skin in the radiated area after treatment. None of the patients showed symptoms of seroma, fat necrosis, or breast asymmetry due to radiation given by the SAVI strut-based brachytherapy device.

More About this story:  Strut-Based Breast Brachytherapy Shows Favorable Outcomes at Four Years, Study Reports

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