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Breast Cancer Patients Experience a Faster Return to Normal Life

Radiation Therapy Treatment Takes Only Five Days

ARLINGTON, Va., Oct. 8 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A typical course of radiation therapy following breast cancer surgery involves 30 sessions over six weeks. But for certain women undergoing lumpectomy, Accelerated Partial Breast Irradiation (APBI), a newer radiation technology now available at Virginia Hospital Center, is allowing a faster return to normal life, with fewer side effects.

APBI, also known as "high dose rate breast brachytherapy", is a shortened course of high dose radiation therapy that targets the area of the breast where the cancer is most likely to recur. Unlike external beam radiation, which irradiates an entire region of breast tissue, APBI concentrates the radiation dose inside the cavity of the original tumor.

In APBI, a balloon filled with saline is temporarily embedded in the lumpectomy site following excision of the tumor. A radiation "seed" inserted into the balloon is then used to deliver radiation in a 360-degree motion inside the surgical cavity twice a day for five days. Each treatment session takes about seven minutes, and the entire course of therapy can be completed in just ten sessions.

"Concentrating the radiation precisely where the tumor used to be is strategic," explains Timothy M. Jamieson, MD, PhD, Medical Director of Radiation Oncology at Virginia Hospital Center. "Statistically, 95 percent of recurrence happens in the same quadrant of the original tumor, most often within one or two centimeters of the first malignancy."

The targeted nature of APBI also means less damage to healthy tissue, and therefore fewer side effects such as fatigue and skin burns. "The idea is that we can reduce the total volume of radiation by concentrating on the area of greatest risk (the tumor bed) without radiating healthy tissue," explains radiation oncologist Robert L. Hong, MD.

With the acquisition of MammoSite(R), a leading brand of APBI technology, Virginia Hospital Center is the only medical facility in Northern Virginia offering this cutting-edge procedure. The procedure is used exclusively in women who have undergone breast conservation therapy (lumpectomy) as opposed to mastectomy. To qualify for APBI, candidates must be 45 years or older with a single, small tumor (less than 3 cm in diameter), no evidence of metastasis, and a tumor cavity that is surrounded by a good margin of healthy tissue.

Women with multiple tumors or cancers that have extended into the lymph nodes are more likely to benefit from standard whole breast external beam radiation, which delivers a uniform dose to the entire affected area following mastectomy or lumpectomy. This approach may be used in combination with intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), which subsequently delivers targeted higher doses of radiation to known "hot spots" in the breast.

A current national clinical trial is investigating potential future applications of APBI in younger women, for the treatment of multiple tumors, and cases where cancer has spread to the lymph nodes.

About Virginia Hospital Center:

For over 60 years, Virginia Hospital Center has provided exceptional medical services to the Washington metropolitan area. Virginia Hospital Center's new $150 million state-of-the-art facility offers comprehensive healthcare and multiple Centers of Excellence including Cardiology & Cardiovascular Surgery, Neuroscience, Oncology, Women & Infant Health and Urology. Growing service lines include Executive Health and the only Lung Cancer Center in Northern Virginia. Virginia Hospital Center is a teaching hospital, long-associated with Georgetown University's School of Medicine, and accredited by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) and Licensed by the Commonwealth of Virginia Department of Health. For additional information, please visit

SOURCE Virginia Hospital Center
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