Intraoperative radiation therapy (IORT) integrates a lumpectomy (the removal of a tumor from the breast) and radiation treatment into a single surgery. During IORT, a precise, concentrated radiation dose is delivered to the tumor immediately after it’s removed.
Typically, standard radiation therapy involves five days of treatment per week, for a total of five to six weeks. With IORT, radiation oncologists can deliver a similar dose of radiation during the surgery. This helps to reduce side effects and minimize the time spent going back and forth to the hospital for ongoing radiation treatments.
How Intraoperative Radiation Therapy Works
The procedure begins with the removal of the tumor by a breast surgeon, followed by the implementation of a balloon applicator into the surgical opening. The applicator then hooks to a robot that helps to directly deliver radiation to the tumor bed, the part of the breast at highest risk of recurrence.
The radiation treatment takes an average of 15 minutes to be delivered all while the patient is sedated. The applicator is then removed and the surgical opening is closed. IORT provides the possibility of a solution much simpler, quicker and more convenient than the traditional radiation treatment after surgery.
Benefits of Intraoperative Radiation Therapy
Intraoperative radiation therapy significantly reduces treatment times, since surgery and radiation are integrated into a single procedure. The elimination of traditional radiation treatments means higher convenience for patients who have difficulty traveling and those who work. Additional benefits include:
- Destroys less breast tissue than ongoing radiation
- Results in fewer side effects than traditional radiation therapy
- Uses a smaller radiation dose than that of external beam radiotherapy
- Results in better cosmetic outcomes for the patient. Patients can receive the benefits of a full mastectomy (the surgical removal of the entire breast), while leaving the nipple and areola fully intact.