IORT–Intraoperative Radiation Therapy

By: Barry S. Rosen, MD, FACS, VP, Medical Management

Although standard breast radiation treatment for lumpectomy patients remains highly effective, it is administered five times a week for up to seven weeks following surgery, which presents a problem for some patients. Recent studies show that between a quarter and a third of lumpectomy patients avoid standard radiation because of time, distance or accessibility problems, thereby risking recurrence and endangering their recovery. Good Shepherd Hospital’s Intraoperative Radiotherapy (IORT) System has helped overcome these problems. With IORT, patients complete their radiation therapy during their breast cancer surgery instead of after surgery— an innovation that enhances recovery and can improve the patient experience.

Thanks to IORT, physicians can deliver targeted radiation therapy treatment directly to the tumor during surgery, immediately following a lumpectomy. This radiation technology uses a single 20 to 30-minute targeted dose of radiation to eliminate the need for external beam radiation therapy following surgery or to reduce significantly the time frame formerly needed. The INTRABEAM® System provides patients with a targeted single-dose radiation treatment delivered intraoperatively (during surgery) after removal of the tumor. Before the surgeon closes the incision, a radiation oncologist directs the radiation to the exact area where the tumor was removed for just 20 to 30 minutes, and then the surgeon closes the incision.

Since introducing this technology in 2012, we have treated more than 100 patients, more than any other hospital in the Chicago metropolitan area. We have started to combine this with oncoplastic surgery, effectively hiding the scars so that the postoperative changes are imperceptible.

Dr. James Ruffer, radiation oncologist, says, “Good Shepherd Hospital chose to adopt this system because of the impact it can have on our patients’ lives. In addition to the convenience of a one-time treatment, this new system also shows additional benefits including less irritation of healthy breast tissue, minimized exposure to the chest cavity and underlying organs, and fewer skin reactions such as redness, rashes and irritation.”