How is radiation a part of breast-conserving therapy for breast cancer?

Radiation therapy as part of breast-conserving therapy traditionally involves treatment of the whole breast, a process that takes six weeks. A boost to the primary site may be given at the end. Radiation starts 2 to 4 weeks following surgery. However, if chemotherapy is needed, that comes first after surgery, and radiation would follow 2 to 4 weeks after completion of chemotherapy.

In selected cases, partial breast radiotherapy can be given. These are usually early, favorable tumors that have a low risk of being multifocal and a low risk of recurrence. Partial breast radiotherapy can be delivered by placement of a Mammosite balloon. This device is placed into the lumpectomy site in the operating room or the surgeon’s office. The device has two exiting ports, one for inflation and deflation of the balloon, and one that attaches to the radiation unit. Radiation is delivered through the catheter in two sessions daily six hours apart for one week. Once radiation is completed, the catheter and balloon are removed. This type of radiotherapy would be given shortly after the lumpectomy, before chemotherapy, as opposed to external beam whole breast radiation, which is generally given after chemotherapy.

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