If you are diagnosed with early stage breast cancer and qualify for a lumpectomy, Avera McKennan can now offer something else while you are under the knife and it will shorten your radiation therapy considerably: It's called IOeRT. Nancy Naeve Brown has more on this type of radiation treatment and a Sioux Falls woman who allowed us in to the OR to watch her lumpectomy. A warning: if you watch this video it contains graphic images of actual breast surgery and may be disturbing to some of you.
Connie Coughlin from Sioux Falls is only 6 days out from her lumpectomy and lymph node surgery. She is back at Avera McKennan to have her incisions checked by her surgeon Dr. Wade Dosch with Avera Medical Group Comprehensive Breast Care.
"I have no pain. It's amazing. I thought it would hurt a little bit more."
Connie found out during her annual mammogram she had early stage breast cancer. The location, size and stage qualified her to take part in a new clinical trial currently going on at Avera McKennan that involves breast cancer patients undergoing lumpectomies and IntraOperative Electron Radiation Therapy or IOeRT for short (more on that to come).
The first thing on Dr. Dosch's surgical agenda was to remove several lymph nodes under Connie's armpit to make sure the cancer hasn't spread. For this particular trial, patients can't have cancer in more than 3 lymph nodes and the tumor has to be smaller than 5 cm. Connie's nodes were clear. Once they got her tumor out and sent it to radiology the margins were also clean so they could proceed with IOeRT delivered by a mobile machine; Mobetron. Avera McKennan is one of only 15 sites in the country with this technology.
"We are doing a boost of radiation right to the tumor bed at the time of surgery and then shortening their external beam radiation therapy from 6 to 3 weeks after they are healed from surgery," Dr. Dosch said.
That was a big selling point for Connie to get IOeRT.
"It shortens my radiation time from 6 weeks to 3 and not only that with people who live far away think about the much time and money they'll save by doing this," Connie said.
"Ultimately will be a benefit to them. One of the limitations from external beam radiation is injury or damage to the skin. By doing radiation therapy in surgery we are targeting the exact the exact area where the tumor was and moving the other skin away that doesn't need radiation and hopefully lessoning those complications with skin, "Dr. Dosch said.
Besides shortening the time of radiation, this treatment could prove to decrease the risk of the breast cancer coming back all together, but only time will tell. At this moment in time, Connie is feeling good, her prognosis is positive and she's happy to have had the opportunity to IOeRT right here in Sioux Falls.
Connie will start her external radiation the second week of July, she'll go Monday through Friday for three weeks which again is 3 weeks shorter with this new therapy.
If you've recently been diagnosed with early stage breast cancer and are interested in enrolling in this clinical trial call 605.322.3950.