Alternative radiation is killing breast cancer faster

200,000 women will be told they have breast cancer this year. Once diagnosed, the first step is usually a lumpectomy to remove it. But weeks of radiation may be needed to kill cancer cells left behind.

A precision treatment once reserved for other cancers is now changing that for breast cancer patients.

The Baratiak household starts early. From the youngest to the oldest, music is in their blood.

It was music that helped Nina make it through some tough days.

"I had a tumor in my left breast,” said Nina Baratiak. “My brain just shut down, like what? Really?"

After a lumpectomy, Nina chose to try a new type of radiation to kill any remaining cancer cells.

"Brachytherapy is a much more precise treatment. It delivers radiation right to the area at risk, right after surgery," said Rakesh Patel, MD, past chairman of the American Brachytherapy Society and Director of Breast Cancer Services at Western Radiation Oncology.

Traditionally, cancer patients undergo external beam radiation therapy to treat the whole breast. It takes 15 minutes, five days a week for six weeks and Is potentially damaging to nearby skin and tissues.

Brachytherapy is more targeted, delivering radiation from the inside out for ten minutes a day for just five days.

"It really hones in to that area and preserves some of that healthy tissue," said Doctor Patel.

At the doctors office, a radiation seed is fed through a device into the area where the tumor was removed, allowing doctors to precisely program how much radiation is given and when.

While it takes a lot less time, studies show the recurrence risk for many women treated with Brachytherapy is the same as those who go through whole breast radiation.

Nina is almost a year out from surgery and is cancer free, enjoying the newest member of the family.

"They chose her name, Zoë, and that means life and we just felt that was a real sign to us," said Baratiak

Possibly a sign of sweet things to come.

Brachytherapy is not for all women diagnosed with breast cancer. It works best on women with early stage breast cancer.

BACKGROUND: About one in every eight women in the United States will experience breast cancer in their lifetime. Each year approximately 200,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and around 40,000 women will die from it. Second to lung cancer, breast cancer is a major cancer that will cause deaths (Source: National Breast Cancer Association).
TYPES: There are two types of Breast Cancer:
Ductal Carcinoma: Starts in the tubes (ducts) that move milk from the breast to the nipple. Most breast cancers are this type.

Lobular Carcinoma: Starts in the parts of the breast called lobules that produce milk.

TREATMENT: The three main treatments for breast cancer are chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery. The chemotherapy is used to kill cancer cells, the radiation therapy is used to destroy cancerous tissue, and the surgery is used to remove cancerous tissue. There are two types of surgery, a lumpectomy removes the breast lump, and a mastectomy removes all of part of the breast and possible nearby structures.(Source:
In the past, radiation has been administered to a patient's "entire" breast (whole breast radiation) via external beam radiation therapy (EBRT). EBRT treatment is delivered to the tumor site via a radioactive beam from outside the patient's body on a daily basis over an approximate 7 week time period. Recent studies have shown that in most cases, limiting radiation to just "part" of the breast (partial breast radiation) is equally as effective and causes less injury to surrounding healthy breast tissue. (Source:
NEW TECHNOLOGY: Brachytherapy is a procedure that involves placing radioactive material inside your body. Brachytherapy is one type of radiation therapy that's used to treat cancer. Brachytherapy is sometimes called internal radiation. Brachytherapy allows doctors to deliver higher doses of radiation to more-specific areas of the body, compared with the conventional form of radiation therapy (external beam radiation) that projects radiation from a machine outside of your body. Brachytherapy may cause fewer side effects than does external beam radiation, and the overall treatment time is usually shorter with brachytherapy. (Source:
Brachytherapy is the quickest, most direct and conformal way to deliver the radiation to the target.
High dose rate (HDR) brachytherapy for breast cancer is usually administered as a complete course given twice a day for a total of 5 days on an outpatient basis. There are two methods of brachytherapy depending upon the size and location of the tumor in relationship to the size and shape of the breast. One is known as "Tube and Button" and the other is referred to as "Balloon Catheter" or "Mammosite".(Source:


Rakesh Patel, MD
Western Radiation Oncology
(925) 734-8130 ext 140

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