MD Anderson Now Offering Accelerated Partial Breast Irradiation at Bay Area Regional Care Center

MD Anderson News Release 09/29/10

Adding to its complement of services, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center's Regional Care Center in the Bay Area now offers another radiation treatment option for some patients newly diagnosed with breast cancer.

Known as accelerated partial breast irradiation or brachytherapy, the technique may be used after lumpectomy. Accelerated partial breast irradiation is a newer use of radiation, and for some patients may be an alternative to the current standard of care, which is four to six weeks of daily external beam radiation after breast-sparing surgery.

Accelerated partial breast irradiation, given after lumpectomy, directly treats the area in the breast at highest risk for recurrence while minimizing the dose to the remaining healthy breast tissue. The technique reduces the number of radiation treatments dramatically, from four to six weeks of daily radiation treatments to five days of twice-daily treatments.

During accelerated partial breast irradiation, the surgeon inserts a small tube or balloon-like device into the lumpectomy cavity and inflates it to fill the small, hollowed out area of the breast where the tumor once was. These devices are designed specifically for accelerated partial breast irradiation, and come in a wide variety of sizes and shapes to accommodate the needs of each patient. The surgeon may implant the device during surgery or after surgery through ultrasound guidance.

The device is left in place for approximately eight to 10 days to allow for radiation planning and treatment. When treatment begins, a radioactive seed is inserted through a small tube or catheter into the implanted device, left in place for approximately five to 10 minutes - the length of a typical radiation treatment - and then removed when the patient leaves the center. This procedure is repeated twice a day for a total of five days.

"If a woman just diagnosed with breast cancer is considering accelerated partial breast irradiation, it's vital that she and her health care team work together to plan properly so they all can be in synch," said Matthew Ballo, M.D., the head of radiation oncology at the MD Anderson Regional Care Center in Bay Area since it opened in 2007. "While this treatment is not appropriate for every breast cancer patient, we want to make the service available to the women who could most benefit."

Ballo works in tandem not only with his MD Anderson colleagues in medical oncology at the Regional Care Center in Bay Area and breast surgery colleagues on the main campus at the Texas Medical Center, but also with community surgeons who operate at local hospitals.

"We work closely and regularly with many area surgeons, internal medicine specialists, community oncologists and obstetricians/gynecologists, so that if one of their patients is considering accelerated partial breast irradiation, we can easily link up to offer the radiation component of the treatment," Ballo said. "Likewise, if a woman from this area has her surgery at MD Anderson on the main campus, we can provide her radiation closer to home, which is especially convenient since the treatments are twice a day."

According to Ballo, radiation oncologists have been steadily increasing their use of accelerated partial breast irradiation since the original device was approved in 2002 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Medicare began reimbursing for the procedure in 2004.

Currently, ideal candidates for the treatment are patients who are over 50 years old, have a relatively small tumor and have disease that is confined to the breast only, Ballo said.

MD Anderson also offers accelerated partial breast irradiation at its Radiation Treatment Center in Bellaire. Since 2008, the center has treated about 100 women with the technique.

The Bellaire and Bay Area facilities participate in research projects studying recurrence, survival, side effects and how the technique compares to the more traditional four to six weeks of external beam radiation. In addition, MD Anderson's Proton Therapy Center on the main campus has a new protocol using proton radiation therapy to deliver partial breast irradiation.

MD Anderson Regional Care Center in Bay Area, located on the campus of CHRISTUS St. John Hospital in Nassau Bay, offers a full range of radiation therapy and medical oncology services, diagnostic testing, laboratory services, chemotherapy infusion, psychosocial services and nutritional counseling.

MD Anderson also has regional care centers offering a similar range of medical and radiation oncology services in Katy, Sugar Land and The Woodlands and radiation treatment centers in Bellaire, Fort Bend County (Richmond) and Albuquerque, New Mexico. 09/29/10