What are the benefits of brachytherapy to treat breast cancer?

Brachytherapy treatments for breast cancer are given twice a day. This usually involves 10 treatments, so therapy is completed in about five days. Most women find this type of radiation treatment interesting because of how quickly it can be completed.

In terms of the overall treatment of breast cancer, there is an additional benefit to this. In the past, typical radiation treatments required about six weeks, so we had to make difficult decisions about when to give chemotherapy and when to give radiation therapy. Delaying either one of those can have consequences. We typically gave the chemotherapy first in women who needed it, and delayed the radiation therapy until the chemotherapy was completed. That often resulted in an increased risk of the cancer coming back at its original site. But we determined that wasn’t as important as reducing disease risk in the rest of the body by giving chemotherapy.

When we use brachytherapy though, we do it immediately after the lumpectomy and we don’t delay chemotherapy. There are no longer any questions about how to time these treatments and which to do first. Since the brachytherapy is finished in a week, it doesn't complicate the timing of chemotherapy at all.

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