Targeting breast cancer

August 3, 2012 3:26:03 PM PDT
A new weapon in the fight against breast cancer is a treatment that targets the disease in a more direct way. Patients receive less radiation and fewer doses.

Like most women, Nina Baratiak was shocked by the diagnosis.

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

After a lumpectomy, Nina chose to try a new type of radiation to kill any remaining cancer cells. It's called brachytherapyalso known as internal radiation.

"Brachytherapy is a much more precise treatment. It delivers radiation right to the area at risk, right after surgery," Rakesh Patel, MD. Said. Patel is 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's 15 minutes, five days a week for six weeks, and potentially damaging to nearby skin and tissues. Brachytherapy is more targeted, delivering radiation from the inside out ten minutes a day for only five days.

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

At the doctor's office, a radioactive seed is fed through a device into the area where the tumor was removed. That seed delivers radiation to the surrounding area. More doctors are using this procedure to treat early stage breast cancer, but critics say more research is needed. One recent study found that women who had brachytherapy had a slightly higher risk of the cancer reoccurring.

Nina is almost a year out from surgery and is cancer free so far, 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," Baratiak said.

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