Brachytherapy Being Used to Fight Breast Cancer

Brachytherapy Being Used to Fight Breast Cancer

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Ed Yeates ReportingUtah women are trying out a new alternative for treating breast cancer, one that attacks and kills their villain from the inside out.

Lying inside a small but comfortable room, Sharon Gardner listens to classical music while a robot machine at bedside attacks her breast cancer. The technique is called Brachytherapy. It's been around for decades, but only recently has been tried on breast cancer.

At the beginning of this week Sharon had small, needle-sized plastic tubes inserted through her breasts. For one week only, two large lead lined doors open and Sharon enters this room for two treatments per day, spaced six hours apart.

Through the air filled tubes the computer-controlled machine inserts radioactive seeds laser welded to the end of catheters. Each delivers a potent radioactive dose directly to their targets. There's no external radiation.

Dr. Hayes, Gamma West Brachytherapy: "There are reduced side effects in a lot of women. And that is particularly true in the skin. We see very little skin burn."

Outside, technicians monitor the patient. Computers control the robot so the seeds release their potent ammunition sequentially from one tube to the next.

At the end of her one week treatment, how does Sharon feel?

Sharon Gardner, Patient: “I’ve had energy except at night I get a little bit tired. But I really have not had reactions to it. It’s like nothing really is happening, so it’s just been a piece of cake really.”

Not every woman with breast cancer is eligible for brachytherapy. They must have a relatively small tumor diagnosed early. For very small tumors, instead of multiple tubes, radiation can be delivered inside a single balloon catheter.

Only four medical centers along the Wasatch front currently have rooms and equipment designed to deliver brachytherapy.

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