Partial breast irradiation is a type of internal radiation therapy known as brachytherapy. It is used for selected patients with early-stage breast cancer who have undergone a lumpectomy and is an alternative to standard radiation therapy, which is given daily over six weeks. The technique spares surrounding healthy tissue while focusing radiation in the area most likely to contain residual cancer cells.
After the breast cancer is removed, a small, soft balloon attached to a thin catheter is placed inside the lumpectomy cavity. The balloon is filled with saline solution and remains in place during the five-day treatment. The treatment is custom designed by the radiation oncologist and physicist for the patient’s specific situation and anatomy. During the twice-per-day treatments, the catheter is attached to a computer-controlled machine which inserts the radioactive sources according to the treatment plan. At the end of the five days, the treatment is complete and the catheter is removed.
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