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Breast Cancer: Single Dose Radiation Option

Your Health Matters - with Janet Zappala

With continuing, medical advancement comes encouraging news for breast cancer patients. In light of new findings, women now have another option for treating breast cancer. It’s called targeted intraoperative radiotherapy (TARGIT), and as the name implies, it targets the radiation to the specific site of the tumor, bypassing vital organs. 

Dennis Holmes, MD
Dennis Holmes, MD, FACS

According to Dennis Holmes, MD, medical director of the breast program at Adventist Health in Glendale, this is a significant move forward for those who are diagnosed with breast cancer. “There was a time when women who were diagnosed had a mastectomy, the complete removal of the affected breast, as their only surgical option for fighting the disease.”

More recently, lumpectomy, or removal of only the affected part of the breast, followed by a six-week course of daily radiotherapy to the entire breast is now also an option. In general, radiotherapy reduces the risk of recurrence of breast cancer by 60 to 70 percent, maintains Dr. Holmes. “However, it’s an approach often associated with significant treatment inconvenience and side effects. For many patients, following up five days a week for six weeks of radiotherapy can be difficult. “The inconvenience and lack of compliance affect a patient’s outcome. Skin-related side effects due to the radiation can also be problematic.”

In trying to reduce those challenges, several radiotherapy procedures have been developed over the last two decades with the goal of decreasing the number of required radiotherapy treatments (often 25-30), to a single treatment at the time of surgery. 

“TARGIT is the most innovative of these treatments, providing complete radiation at a safe, single dose, that focuses the radiation directly on the lumpectomy site—the area at greatest risk of recurrence, sparing the breast skin and nearby organs from radiation,” explains Holmes, who has been looking at alternatives to traditional radiotherapy since 2002. 

In 2006, he joined the international study as an investigator to enroll patients in a randomized control trial. Half the women randomly received traditional radiotherapy after surgery; the other half underwent TARGIT during lumpectomy. They were followed to determine the outcome of both methods. “Patients were followed an average of 8 to 18 years to ensure that the results were reliable and consistent,” says Holmes. 

The long-term results from the trial published in the British Medical Journal were notable. “We found that lumpectomy with TARGIT achieved the same rate of cancer control as lumpectomy followed by traditional radiotherapy, thereby establishing TARGIT as an effective alternative to traditional radiation. The study also demonstrated that the women who underwent TARGIT had fewer death-related heart attacks and lung cancer than those treated with conventional radiation. 

The major advantage of TARGIT, says Holmes is, “Patients leave the operating room with lumpectomy and breast radiotherapy completed in a single visit allowing them to resume home and work activities much more quickly without compromising cancer control or cancer survival.”

Janet Zappala is a certified nutritional consultant, an Emmy-award-winning anchor/ reporter and the creator and host of Your Health Matters. Find her on Facebook @JanetZappalaYourHealthMatters. For more information on TARGIT, call (800) 203.5515 or visit www.DrHolmesMD.com.

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