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New Cancer Treatment at Upstate Reduces Time, Radiation after Lumpectomy for Breast Cancer Patients

A new type of treatment for breast cancer could greatly reduce the amount of – and side effects from – radiation therapy.  Upstate Cancer Center is trying to make more doctors and patients aware of the option.

Cindy Steger of Tully underwent treatment for cancer six years ago … involving numerous visits and invasive medical techniques.

“They put the shunt in or port, whatever they call it.  And I drove back and forth for a week.  It was tiring; I didn’t think about how tired I was, but I was.”

She describes a normal recovery – but unfortunately, cancer returned.  However, Steger was able to be treated by a new therapy a few weeks ago that included a lump removal and radiation all in one day.  Would you be skeptical?

“I wasn’t really concerned about that.  I think with cancer research and study they’re getting better all the time.  And they’re finding out that less sometimes is better.  And it doesn’t do the damage to the heart, lungs and other organs so I was very confident with it.”

She was out of surgery by afternoon, and back to normal life activities after a just a week of recovery. 

The IORT treatment starts with incision and lumpectomy.

Doctor Lisa Lai says the Intra-operative Radiation Therapy (IORT) moves from a lumpectomy to radiation treatment all in the same visit.

“The benefits of this is it controls the tumor at the site where it was, decreases the chance that it’s coming back again.  That’s what radiation is doing.  But it’s also saving a lot of healthy tissue from radiation treatment.” 

The second step of IORT is to insert a small balloon that administers localized radiation to the tissues surrounding the tumor to reduce the chances cancer returns.

Lai acknowledges that this is a new technique, but says it’s gone through clinical trials with thousands of patients.  Upstate officials say it’s the only program in the state to offer the one-day therapy outside New York City … and Doctor Lai expects people to travel from outside the area to receive it.  They hope to hear from more than just medical professionals who might want to come utilize the treatment.

“...oncologists, primary care physicians, OB-GYN’s, but also, especially in the day of social media, the patients are very savvy about what treatments they can get and where.  So we’re hoping that patients will find us as well.”                       

There are restrictions on who is a good candidate.  The ideal patient is a woman over age 50, with an early-detected tumor that’s not too close to the skin.  But she’s hopeful it can be effective and much less invasive or difficult for a large portion of those diagnosed with breast cancer.

Chris Bolt, Ed.D. has proudly been covering the Central New York community and mentoring students for more than 30 years. His career in public media started as a student volunteer, then as a reporter/producer. He has been the news director for WAER since 1995. Dedicated to keeping local news coverage alive, Chris also has a passion for education, having trained, mentored and provided a platform for growth to more than a thousand students. Career highlights include having work appear on NPR, CBS, ABC and other news networks, winning numerous local and state journalism awards.