Tuesday, July 15, 2008

One-Day Breast Cancer Treatment Saves Lives in Less Time

(ARA) – For many patients, a cancer diagnosis is no longer a fatal one. However, the comfort that a patient’s condition is treatable is often accompanied by dread of the grueling treatment that will be needed to save his or her life. But a new therapy holds hope for treating some cancers in just a single day, rather than through months of harsh radiation therapy.

Arleen Sharwell, 65, a New York resident and mother of two, was among the millions of women who received a diagnosis of breast cancer last year. After the initial shock of the diagnosis, Sharwell discussed her treatment options with her breast surgeon on Long Island. They settled on a lumpectomy surgery followed by five to six weeks of traditional radiation therapy.

Through a family connection, Sharwell learned of a procedure that can eliminate weeks of costly, physically demanding post-operative radiation treatment. The procedure, known as intraoperative electron beam radiation therapy, uses a device called the Mobetron, from IntraOp Medical (www.intraopmedical.com), to deliver a single dose of radiation at the time of surgery. Because the procedure applies the radiation directly to the cancer-affected area, treatment times are shorter, recovery is faster, side effects are fewer and cosmetic results are better than those often experience by patients who go through traditional radiation treatment.

Recent clinical studies, including one from renowned breast surgeon Dr. Umberto Veronesi of Milan’s European Institute of Oncology, have shown that a single dose of radiation at the time of surgery could be equivalent to a full six-week course of traditional post-operative radiation treatment. This treatment is being widely adopted in many international health centers, as it provides a cost-effective way to treat breast cancer, while offering patients better quality of life.

After researching the Mobetron and the single dose treatment, Sharwell passed the information to her doctor. She assumed her doctor would take an active role in helping her to connect with a hospital that offered the treatment, but Arleen’s doctor was uninterested in hearing about the Mobetron. More than that, he openly questioned its effectiveness. “Arleen,” he said, “We have better things here.”

Sharwell turned to Dr. David Ollila from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. She met with Ollila, associate professor and surgical director for the multi-disciplinary breast and multidisciplinary melanoma programs at UNC, and Dr. Joel Tepper, professor and former chair of radiation oncology, to see if she was a candidate for the device. They were quickly able to confirm that she was a candidate, and the doctors scheduled her surgery to be conducted just a few days after the initial meeting.

The day of her operation, Arleen arrived at the hospital at 7 a.m. and finished her surgery and two-minute single dose of radiation from the Mobetron that same day. Dr. Tepper delivered a single dose of radiation to the tumor bed, pinpointing the exact area that required radiation so that healthy tissue was left unharmed. Dr. Ollila then safely removed the lump from Sharwell’s breast.

Sharwell never imagined that she would be treated as an outpatient for breast cancer. “The next day my family came in for lunch and I was shopping in Chapel Hill. I felt fine,” she says.

“The Mobetron made what seemed to be a dreadful situation something that I could overcome,” Sharwell says. “I’ve been trying to get the word out so that other patients can benefit from this fast and remarkable treatment.” She is also impressed with the way her breast has healed since the surgery. “I couldn’t imagine going to a plastic surgeon and having it look any better.”

Sharwell says cancer patients should never just accept what their doctor tells them. They must conduct their own research -- and always get a second opinion.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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