The Swedish Cancer Institute is the first cancer center in the nation to offer single-treatment, implantable breast cancer radiation. Radiation seed therapy is a safe and effective treatment alternative for many patients with early breast cancer.
Breast Microseed Treatment™ is another step in Swedish’s shorter-course, targeted breast radiation program. Last year, Swedish Cancer Institute began routinely offering early-stage breast cancer patients an accelerated form of partial breast radiation using a catheter that delivered treatment to the surgical cavity. This reduced radiation treatment from the traditional six to seven weeks to only five days. Now, with the use of radioactive seeds, we’ve shortened radiation to a single treatment.
How radioactive seed therapy works
Radioactive seeds are implanted in cases where we are confident the cancer has been completely removed. These tiny seeds slowly release radiation over a two-month period and do not need to be removed.
While the Swedish Cancer Institute is the first center in the U.S. to offer this single-treatment option, it has been used in Canada since 2004. This new technology offers breast cancer patients similar technology to what has been used in prostate cancer patients for many years.
From surgery to radiation
- After a lumpectomy, a radiation oncologist monitors the site while fluid that normally collects after surgery is reabsorbed by the body. This may require a few trips to the office for ultrasound evaluation.
- When the cavity is small enough, the patient has a CT scan to determine how many seeds will need to be placed. Again, this is a separate visit.
- Finally, the patient returns to the operating room, where she will be given anesthesia while the radiation oncologist inserts 70 to 90 microscopic seeds in the surgical cavity. The procedure takes about an hour and patients can go home that same day.
Recovery from the procedure is quick and there is usually minimal discomfort afterward. In general, the seeds don’t pose a health risk to anyone around you – feel free to hug family, friends and pets!
After the initial soreness resolves, you shouldn’t have any awareness that the seeds are in place. As with any radiation treatment, you may be more fatigued than normal but this is usually mild.
When daily radiation therapy isn’t possible
Aside from convenience, accelerated partial breast radiation techniques may provide crucial treatment for women who might not otherwise be able to receive it.
Currently, there are women who decide to have a whole breast removed because they are unable to travel for daily radiation visits. Patients in rural areas often have to travel long distances to receive therapy, and for some women this can become an almost insurmountable barrier.
Other women have travel obligations that prevent them from remaining in town for six to seven consecutive weeks. With this therapy, they won’t have to choose between losing their job and protecting their lives.
Even in cases where women can do daily radiation, these new options offer shorter treatment courses, allowing them to resume their normal lives more quickly.
Personalizing cancer care
We are excited to be introducing breast radioactive seeds to Swedish and the United States. This is one more opportunity for us to tailor our treatment to the patient, rather than the patient to the treatment.