West Virginia University Cancer Institute has become the first hospital in the state to offer a specialized breast cancer treatment that can shave weeks off treatment time for some patients.
The treatment is called Intraoperative Radiation Therapy. This is how it works: Directly after surgery to remove the cancerous lump, a radiation applicator is inserted directly into the cavity previously occupied by the tumor. Specialists then apply concentrated radiation to the area. Surgery and radiation are completed in one visit.
In contrast, in traditional breast cancer treatment, patients must receive radiation daily for three-six weeks to the entire breast and surrounding tissues. The heart and lungs often receive at least some radiation in the process.
The new therapy is not yet available to all women. Candidates must be over 50, and their cancer must meet a specific criteria. So far 13 women have received the therapy at WVU.
Appalachia Health News is a project of West Virginia Public Broadcasting, with support from the Benedum Foundation.