Introducing Electronic Brachytherapy

Genesis Cancer Care Institute expands treatment options for breast cancer

Patients with early-stage breast cancer can now benefit from a new radiation therapy option that reduces the traditional treatment of seven weeks to only five days.

The Genesis Cancer Care Institute Electronic Brachytherapy Program, located at 1351 E. Kimberly Road in Bettendorf, is the first in the Quad Cities region.

The therapy uses a miniaturized X-ray source to deliver high-dose radiation internally at low energy. It can be turned on and off at will to deliver localized and targeted radiation treatment, without the use of radioactive isotopes.

Electronic brachytherapy delivers radiation directly inside the body, where the cancer was removed. Like conventional external radiation treatment, it’s used as follow-up treatment to surgery to reduce cancer recurrence.

Patients like the fact that electronic brachytherapy replaces the traditional seven weeks of treatment with just 10 treatments over the course of five days.

“We are bringing the Axxent Electronic Brachytherapy System to the area because we strongly believe it’s an important new tool in the arsenal against breast cancer,” says Sally Werner, Director of the Genesis Cancer Care Institute. “This is really an extension of our Genesis Center for Breast Health and, more importantly, it’s giving women with breast cancer all the available treatment options. Our focus is on keeping patients close to home for these advanced treatments.”

Radiation oncologist Farida Rajput, M.D., will be providing the therapy and recently treated the first patient locally with electronic brachytherapy.

Dr. Rajput says electronic brachytherapy is for a select group of patients with early-stage breast cancer: “Instead of seven weeks of radiation therapy, these patients can come for electronic brachytherapy over five days,” she says. “The treatment is twice a day, six hours a part. It takes only about half an hour for each session. It’s done on an outpatient basis, and it’s painless. It will be very convenient for those patients who live out of town and don’t want be traveling back and forth for seven weeks.”

Dr. Rajput adds, “Studies have compared the seven weeks of traditional radiation therapy to the five days of electronic brachytherapy, and the 10-year local control rates are comparable.”

Patients are suitable for electronic brachytherapy if: they are age 60 and above; if their tumor is less than 2 centimeters; the margins are clear after surgery; the Sentinel Lymph Node is negative; the Estrogen/Progesterone Receptor test is positive; and, they are not undergoing neoadjuvant chemotherapy. Patients with pure Ductal Carcinoma In Situ are also not eligible, she explains.

Electronic brachytherapy delivers more intense therapy directly to the targeted cancer site, with minimal radiation exposure to the surrounding healthy tissue and organs. Medical personnel may remain in the room during treatment.

“Electronic brachytherapy is a coordinated effort between the surgeon and the radiation oncologist,” Werner explains.

The surgeon removes the cancerous tumor during a lumpectomy. If electronic brachytherapy is appropriate, a small balloon is implanted via a catheter into the breast cavity after the tumor is removed. Once in place, the balloon is inflated with saline to fill the cavity. The balloon shaft will remain on the outside of the breast and can be easily tucked into a bra.

After a CT scan, Dr. Rajput then plans an appropriate amount of radiation to treat the tissue around the tumor cavity. During treatment, the balloon applicator will be connected to the electronic brachytherapy system, which turns the radiation on and off. On the fifth day, after the final treatment is complete, the balloon applicator is deflated and removed. No stitches should be necessary.

Because breast cancer treatment usually requires an entire interdisciplinary team, the Genesis Cancer Care Institute provides cancer nurse navigators, Amy Fitzgibbon, R.N., BSN, CCM and Melissa Frantz, RN, OCN, to help guide and support patients from the time of diagnosis, through treatment and also survivorship.

“We understand that care coordination is key to the support of our patients and the quality of their care,” Werner concludes. “A cancer nurse navigator guides, supports and communicates to smooth the pathways for patients and families.”

To learn more about electronic brachytherapy, call Dr. Farida Rajput at (563) 441-1998.

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