Surgery is the mainstay for removing the primary cancer in the breast itself and for removal of a small sample of lymph glands of the armpit.
However when the sample is tested, patients who have cancer cells in the glands of the armpit are conventionally treated with radical surgical removal of two levels of lymph glands and surrounding tissues in the armpit. The new research found that patients who were given X- Rays (radiotherapy) instead of radical removal of armpit tissue had fewer side effects.
Infection or bleeding occurred in 23 percent of the surgery patients but only 9 percent of the radiation group. There was also a dramatic difference in painful tissue swelling of the arm called lymphedema.
One year after treatment, 25 percent of those who had surgery developed lymphedema but only 15 percent of those who had radiation developed swollen arm. Patients who had radiotherapy to the armpit instead of surgery had the same survival as those who had surgery.
Radiation therapy is commonly used after surgery to destroy any residual cancer cells that may remain in the breast after surgery. Use of postoperative radiation therapy reduces the risk of recurrence from 50% to 5%. Radiation therapy is one of the most common cancer treatments for cancer.
It uses special equipment to aim high doses of radiation at cancer cells. This damages the cancer cells and causes them to die while the normal cells recover so there is little harm to nearby healthy tissue. Radiation therapy targets only the part of the body being treated.
It is very important to note that these research results apply to radiotherapy that is done using modern techniques and equipment.
Radiation therapy systems are extremely sophisticated and run by very highly trained and accredicted teams on physicists, engineers, dosimetrists, technologists and doctors. Like any type of sophisticated, high-tech equipment, radiation therapy systems need continuous attention.
Your Radiation Physicist is responsible for developing quality control programs to make sure the device used for your radiation therapy is calibrated to deliver exactly the right amount of radiation at every visit. They also run safety tests on the equipment on a regular basis and review all calculations during your course of treatment.
There are two basic types of radiation therapy: External and Internal. External uses special X-rays for very sophisticated equipment and is commonly given daily over a few weeks.
Internal radiation therapy uses a radioactive source that is temporarily placed in the cavity left by a tumor that has been surgically removed. Regardless of whether you and your doctor choose a form of external or internal radiotherapy, the primary objective of is to deliver as much radiation as possible — for maximum effectiveness — while minimizing damage to surrounding healthy tissue and possible side effects.
Radiation therapy delivery has become so precise that damage to surrounding healthy tissue — the primary cause of side effects commonly associated with radiation therapy treatment — is now minimized. We also go an extra step to ensure that you receive the exact dosage amount of radiation therapy prescribed with our proprietary dosage assurance software, the SureBeam Guardian Protection SystemTM.
The SureBeam Guardian Protection System records the amount of radiation you receive and automatically alerts the Radiation Therapist if it is less or more than the prescribed dose. In fact, it is so sensitive that it can tell if there is a change in your tumor, or in your anatomy, which may require a modification to your dosage plan.
This system also automatically checks that you are correctly positioned on the treatment table, and will detect any anomaly with the radiation treatment system itself. It is a remarkable technology that we use with every patient to verify that treatment is delivered accurately, safely and as effectively as possible.
We use the SureBeam Guardian Protection System as an extra step to monitor radiation therapy during every treatment in order to:
- Ensure the amount of radiation you get is exactly the amount prescribed
- Verify that you are positioned properly
- Detect any changes in your anatomy that may require a change in your treatment plan
- Validate that the equipment is perfectly calibrated and working properly
- Provide you with peace of mind and the most stress-free experience possible
At 21st Century Oncology, our network of radiation therapy centers offers the most sophisticated radiation therapy treatment planning and delivery systems in the world. 21st Century Oncology cancer patients are typically referred to us by their surgeon, Primary Care doctor, Urologist, OBGYN, Medical Oncologist, or other treating physician. That said, you are also welcome to come to one of our centers without a physician referral.
SOURCES: Mila Donker, M.D., researcher, Netherlands Cancer Institute Laura Kruper, M.D., director, Cooper Finkel Women's Health Center and City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center, Calif; April 30, 2014, presentation, American Society of Breast Surgeons annual meeting, Las Vegas
May 7th 2014