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VCU works to cut the time women receive breast cancer radiation from weeks to days

Posted at 6:45 PM, Dec 05, 2014

RICHMOND, Va. -- VCU Massey Cancer Center is at the center of launching trials to reduce the length of time breast cancer patients receive radiation therapy. Anytime a lumpectomy is performed for early-stage breast cancer, there is a risk of leaving behind microscopic disease that could spread.

"The idea of radiation is to eradicate that microscopic disease," VCU Massey Cancer Center Radiation Oncologist Dr. Douglas Arthur said. "Historically, we thought we had to treat the whole breast to achieve that."

Now Dr. Arthur, and others, are conducting trials on Accelerated Partial Breast Irradiation (APBI). The procedure targets a part of the breast so doctors can localize the radiation therapy.

"Then we can accelerate the treatment and get it done in a much shorter fashion which was important to a lot of women who lived a far distance," Dr. Arthur said.

 VCU Massey Cancer Center Radiation Oncologist Dr. Douglas Arthur

VCU Massey Cancer Center Radiation Oncologist Dr. Douglas Arthur

VCU has launched a new trial to reduce treatment times even more

Treating the entire breast can take up to eight weeks. Standard APBI delivers treatment twice a day for five days. The new APBI trial reduces treatment to just three days.

As for the treatments, one looks like an egg beater and the other looks like a balloon. Both are common, specialized catheters inserted into the breast cavity left behind after the tumor was removed.

"It allows us to distribute the catheters inside the cavity so we can treat that realm of tissue around the cavity safely," Dr. Arthur said.

The other method delivers radiation using multi-catheters throughout the breast tissue.

VCU Massey Cancer Center will launch phase two of the APBI trial, which focuses on reducing treatment time to three days or less, in February or March.

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