(08/27/13) - Every 15 minutes, a woman dies from breast cancer. But a new
approach to treatment may not only help save more lives, it could get the job
done faster, and with less pain.
Joanne Duffy gets a lot of support from the women in her breast cancer support group.
But Joanne's treatment was different than her fellow group members. She is one of the first to have a lumpectomy and all of her radiation in one surgery.
"If a woman has a lumpectomy for breast cancer, the site where the cancer will most likely come back is the site where it was before," says Dr. Stephen Grobmyer of the Cleveland Clinic.
That is why immediately following the tumor removal, Grobmyer and other surgeons at the Cleveland Clinic are using intra-operative radiation therapy to specifically target the area where a tumor is removed.
Traditionally, patients would start monthly chemotherapy infusions for a year after surgery, then follow that by daily radiation treatments for three to five weeks. The intra-operative treatment cuts out all the radiation treatments for many patients. Whether chemo is needed depends on the size and type of tumor.
"It's allowing us to tailor the treatment specifically to the patient and their type of breast cancer," Grobmyer says.
Intra-operative therapy wiped out Joanne's cancer, and now she's focusing on helping other women, "I feel like a woman who's 71, but I feel like I'm 31."
Because healthy tissue is not damaged, recovery time is quicker. In fact, some patients can go home the same day of surgery, and they don't have to come back. Since this treatment is still being studied long term, doctors are using it for patients with early stage breast cancer who are 60 or older.
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