A Breast Cancer Treatment That Takes Less Than a Week?!A. Stout
When it comes to radiation therapy for breast cancer, doctors usually beam ionizing radiation at the entire, affected breast. This method, called whole breast irradiation (WBI), isn’t without some problems:
- Healthy tissues and organs get damaged.
- The lengthy treatment time (roughly five to seven weeks) disrupts patients’ lives.
But there’s a relatively new treatment on the block, and it solves both of these issues. Its name is SAVI.
SAVI is classified as breast brachytherapy, which is a type of APBI (accelerated partial breast irradiation).
Now you may be thinking, Say whaaaat? So let me put it this way: APBI is a speedy form of radiation therapy that only targets part of the breast — the part affected by cancer. Breast brachytherapy is a type of that; it spreads radiation from inside the breast.
That being said, how does SAVI work? It starts after a lumpectomy. A doctor inserts the device into the breast via the lumpectomy’s surgical incision. It stays there throughout the treatment process. Catheters within the device expand to fill the walls of the tumor cavity. Twice per day, over the course of five days, a doctor plants individual doses of radiation into the tumor cavity. This is made possible through the catheters, which deposit the “seeds” of radiation within the breast.
If you’re struggling to wrap your mind around the process, like I was, this soundless video offers a really great visualization.
There are several different perks of this treatment option. One is its duration: five days to a few weeks, making it more convenient and less life-altering than WBI. In addition to that, peer-reviewed studies say that it makes more women eligible for APBI and spares healthy tissues (because it only involves the area around the tumor).
Remember that this is a new form of treatment, however. APBI in general is a new form of treatment. So scholarship on its safety and efficacy compared to WBI is slightly mixed, and many researchers say that more information is needed. However, the overarching consensus is that APBI and WBI yield very similar results (with some exceptions). That being said, many clinics have deemed APBI and SAVI as safe to use and have adopted them.
Of course, not everyone is eligible for this form of treatment. Eligibility factors include age, cancer stage, tumor size, and tumor location in relation to the lymph nodes. So be sure to ask your doctor if it’s a good option for you.
Unfortunately, some women don’t receive information about all of their breast cancer treatment options, and they go through unnecessary surgeries as a result. You can help enact laws that will change this.