Local News

MammoSite A New Treatment Option For Some Women With Breast Cancer

Posted October 24, 2003 2:48 a.m. EDT

— There are several reasons why some breast cancer patients choose a mastectomy over radiation, but sometimes it is simply because of the time commitment or they have to travel too far for radiation. A new treatment now available in the Triangle is changing that.

When Barbara Height was diagnosed with breast cancer, she wanted a mastectomy.

"I thought at that particular time that was the right way to go," she said.

Height did not want to drive three hours every day for six weeks to undergo radiation.

Surgical Oncologist Dr. Lisa Tolnitch said time is often a dilemma for breast cancer patients.

"Coming in for radiation is so inconvenient for them," she said. "Normally, the radiation course is six and half weeks and they come in Monday through Friday."

Then Height's doctor told her about a new option at Wake Radiology in Cary called


. The procedure is for women with small breast cancers.

Surgeons remove the tumor, then insert a catheter with a small balloon on the end into the tumor site. During treatment, a radioactive seed is inserted into the balloon to kill off remaining cancer cells.

The procedure dramatically reduces radiation treatment times. Instead of every day for six weeks, patients come in twice a day for five days.

The seeds target just the cancer site.

"There's less treatment to the entire breast, there's less treatment to the heart, lungs, and surrounding organs," said Dr. Scott Sailer, a radiologist.

Wake Radiology has used the device on three patients so far. While there are no long-term studies, early results are promising.

"I think the trend in treatment is to try and preserve the breast-- not to remove it," Tolnitch said.

Height had her last treatment a week ago. She is glad it is over, but even happier that a mastectomy was not necessary .

This type of treatment has been proven as effective as traditional radiation, but not more effective. Right now it has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for women with small breast cancers that have not spread to the lymph nodes.

Studies are starting on treating larger, more invasive breast cancers.