Cyberknife allows for precision radiation

March 22, 2012 1:49:18 PM PDT
For breast cancer patients who have a lumpectomy, you usually still need at least a month of radiation to make sure the cancer is gone. It takes time, and it's frustrating.

New technology could help cut that radiation time down to a week.

Cyberknife is the name of this robotic machine that delivers radiation to the cancerous tumor as the arm moves around the patient.

Dr. Jonathan Haas is a radiation oncologist at Winthrop University Hospital on Long Island. For the first time, they are testing Cyberknife for breast cancer patients who just had a lumpectomy.

It can actually see the patient's tumor or the tumor bed where the tumor used to be and has an accuracy of less than a millimeter.

That accuracy means the radiation zaps only the cancer and not the healthy organs around it and it could mean 5 days of radiation instead of 6 weeks. Dr. Haas, who is paid by the makers of Cyberknife to teach other doctors how to use it, admits the technology is only as good as the doctor who programs it.

So how do you know if this machine is the best way to fight your breast cancer and keep it from coming back? The answer is we don't know, yet.

Cyberknife has been around for about a decade, originally used for prostate and brain cancer.

But it's still new for breast cancer. Dr. Haas says so far their new study involves only 10 patients.

Dr. Haas says they're hoping to enroll about 10 more patients in that study, and they're working with 2 other hospitals in other parts of the country that are also testing Cyberknife for breast cancer patients.

We're at least a few years away before this could become a standard treatment for women after a lumpectomy.

The true test is proving that the cancer doesn't come back, and that it works as well as traditional radiation.