Olga Ivanov, M.D.
Medical Director of the Comprehensive Breast Health Center, Florida Hospital Celebration Health
In 2008, I treated my first breast cancer patient using an advanced form of radiation therapy called intraoperative radiation therapy (IORT). The technology claimed to be able to target cancer cells with greater precision, making it possible to complete radiation therapy in a matter of minutes instead of using multiple treatments over several weeks. And I remember that patient’s report of her recovery. She said “I came to surgery, went to sleep, and one and a half hours later I was in recovery and I was done with cancer. Three days later I was out dancing to the song ‘I Will Survive.’”
Thousands of women are diagnosed with early stage (stage 1 or 2) breast cancer each year. For many, concerns about radiation treatment are similar to the fear that comes with a cancer diagnosis. The introduction of IORT presented women with a new option that has helped many of them put their cancer diagnosis behind them and return to their normal lives within just a few days.
IORT is performed immediately following lumpectomy with a single, precise dose of radiation delivered within the lumpectomy cavity, directly targeting cancer cells while sparing healthy surrounding tissue. At Florida Hospital, we work together with radiation oncology to perform IORT using the Xoft Electronic Brachytherapy System in a procedure that can be completed in as little as eight minutes. Traditional radiation treatment for breast cancer can take six to eight weeks to complete.
The shorter treatment time and convenience of IORT make it an especially important option for women who work or care for their families. It offers fewer side effects and can cost much less than traditional radiation treatment.
Since 2008, hundreds of my patients have been treated with IORT, and thus far we have not seen one case of recurrence of cancer. For women who are not good candidates for IORT, traditional radiation therapy remains an important alternative. But all women should be aware of IORT as a proven-effective, targeted solution and find out if it is right for them.