A breast cancer diagnosis is devastating, but what if I told you the most advanced cancer fighting tool is being used right here in Sioux Falls? It's true, doctors at the Avera Cancer Institute are revolutionizing the treatment of breast cancer.
No it's not an arcade, these are the sounds of the operating room. But the technology in this OR is far more exciting than any video game.
This is IOeRT.
"IOeRT stands for IntraOperative Electron Radiation Therapy so basically it's the delivery of a very specific type of radiation electron therapy in the operating room." said Dr. James Simon, a radiation oncologist at Avera.
In this case, it's Grace Gerdes. Grace's battle with breast cancer started just three months ago.
"I was shocked, very shocked and I thought, well there are many others just like me so I may as well just go right along with it." said Gerdes.
Grace's doctor is Julie Reiland; the woman responsible for bringing IOeRT to Avera.
With it, women now have more treatment options.
"I had a lot of patients who were choosing mastectomy over lumpectomy because they lived too far away and didn't want to do six weeks of radiation. With lumpectomy you have to do the radiation, so they'd say forget it I'll do the mastectomy." said Dr. Reiland, a breast surgeon at the Avera Comprehensive Breast Care Clinic.
The technology is one of a kind, allowing the surgeon and radiation oncologist to work in tandem. First the lump is removed, then a beam is positioned to give Grace a boost of radiation to kill cancer at the root. Once in place, the OR is cleared and radiation delivered.
"This is five times what's considered a normal daily dose if you will." said Dr. Simon.
The radiation dosage is high, but extremely focused to limit exposure to other tissues. By combining treatments, IOeRT helps save time and also calms a patient's fears.
"When you realize that in the operating room I just removed the cancer, and now I'm bringing in a course of radiation; there's no doubt where that cancer was and no doubt I'm treating the appropriate place." said Dr. Reiland.
Like any lumpectomy, post surgery radiation treatments are still needed but the amount is cut in half.
"Six weeks to three weeks, yeah so I took the three weeks!" said Gerdes.
Grace is one of 60 women who have been treated through Avera's program which is one of a mere handful in the United States.
IOeRT is still considered experimental, but the world is watching every case very closely.
"Not only do we cross our T's and dot our I's here but it's also checked again in Austria so it's part of an international study." said Dr. Reiland.
Grace was the ideal patient for the study. Over 60 with a well-behaved tumor. Getting experimental treatment can be a scary thought but Grace had faith in Avera's team of cutting edge physicians.
"I just knew that I was in the hands of good people and I just trusted in them and so it didn't really bother me at all." said Gerdes.
As cancer fighting technology improves, Avera will always move to what's most efficient and most effective. If you ask these doctors, that's IOeRT.
"At some point in the future IntraOperative Radiation for breast cancer will become the accepted standard and expectation of women." said Dr. Simon.
With the success of IOeRT in breast cancer, Dr. Simon says the technology will also be applied to other cancers in the future. For more information about IOeRT and other state-of-the-art cancer treatments just call 877-AT-AVERA.