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Radiation Therapy

You may need to undergo radiation therapy to shrink your tumor before surgery or to destroy any cancerous cells that can remain after surgery. Women who undergo lumpectomy typically receive radiation therapy daily for about six weeks. The physician specialist who oversees your therapy, known as a radiation oncologist, will design your individualized therapy program using the most advanced technology available.


External forms of radiation therapy

Inova Breast Care Institute offers the latest in radiation oncology to treat breast cancer tumors, using a linear accelerator to aim a beam of high-energy radiation at the affected area. Types of extermal radiation therapy include intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) and image guided radiation therapy (IGRT). IGRT delivers precisely targeted radiation to tumors and reduces exposure to the surrounding healthy tissues. TomoTherapy™ and Trilogy™ are two examples of IGRT.

Trilogy is available at Inova Joseph Viar Jr. and Bonnie Christ Cancer Center – Alexandria and Inova Cancer Center – Fairfax . TomoTherapy is available at Inova Cancer Center – Fairfax . IMRT and IGRT are also available at Inova Mary Elizabeth Miller Cancer Center – Lansdowne. See location information.


Internal radiation therapy

Radiation therapy can also be implanted directly at the site of the tumor and is known as brachytherapy. For breast cancer patients, accelerated partial breast irradiation is a form of brachytherapy used for selected patients with early-stage breast cancer who have undergone a lumpectomy.

This form of radiation oncology is an alternative to standard radiation therapy 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. Computer-controlled radioactive sources flow through the catheter into the balloon during twice daily treatments, according to the individualized treatment plan. The catheter and balloon are removed after the five-day treatment.

Accelerated partial breast irradiation is offered at Inova Joseph Viar Jr. and Bonnie Christ Cancer Center – Alexandria and Inova Cancer Center – Fairfax . See location information.