Wichita hospital announces new early-stage breast cancer treatment

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FILE photo - MGN Online FILE photo - MGN Online

Wesley Medical Center is the first hospital in Kansas to offer a new breakthrough treatment option for patients with early-stage breast cancer. 

The procedure is called intraoperative radiation therapy (IORT). The hospital says the treatment is a one-day option that offers added convenience, fewer treatments and reduced costs.

For women meeting selection criteria, IORT allows radiation oncologists and breast cancer surgeons to work together to deliver a full, concentrated dose of radiation in one day at the time of lumpectomy, targeting cancer cells and sparing healthy tissue, such as the heart, lungs and ribs, according to a news release. Traditional breast cancer treatment typically involves daily radiation treatment five days per week for up to eight weeks.

Sammie Lou Reif is one of the first people in Kansas to be treated using IORT at Wesley Medical Center. She says it was a great option since she lives in rural Kansas.

“I was excited to only have one treatment and just in the area where the cancer was,” said Reif, a retired school teacher from Ellinwood. “I said ‘yes’ immediately and it was the way to go. I have not had any issues so far.”

Reif was treated with intraoperative radiation therapy on May 31.

“Many of my patients live many miles from radiation centers and sometimes have to make decisions about mastectomy because the radiation associated with the lumpectomy is too far away,” said Therese Cusick, MD, a breast surgeon with Breast Care Specialists. “Four hours round trip on a daily basis could mean losing a job or be very challenging to family. This allows women in rural Kansas the opportunity for breast conservation if they meet the criteria."

The IORT system uses a miniaturized X-ray source, which is inserted into a flexible balloon-shaped applicator, then temporarily placed inside the lumpectomy cavity. A full course of radiation is then administered in a single dose, lasting as little as eight minutes, which directly targets cancer cells.

“Some women, such as those who are in the workforce or caretakers for their families, may find it difficult to finish a course of treatment that requires multiple visits,” said Christina Nicholas, MD, a breast surgeon with Kansas Surgical Consultants.  “As IORT typically requires only one dose of radiation, patients are able to return to their normal daily activities within days rather than weeks.”

Earlier this year, Wesley Medical Center was accredited by the Commission on Cancer (CoC) – part of the American College of Surgeons. 

The news release said, "Being a CoC-accredited cancer center means Wesley takes a multidisciplinary approach to treating cancer as a complex group of diseases that requires consultation among  surgeons, medical and radiation oncologists, diagnostic radiologists, pathologists and other cancer specialists. This multidisciplinary partnership results in improved patient care."

“The addition of the Intraoperative Radiation Therapy to Wesley Medical Center is advancing breast cancer care in the community and the state of Kansas,” said Phu Truong, MD, medical director of Wesley Cancer Care and a medical oncologist/hematologist with Cancer Center of Kansas. “Having a CoC accredited hospital allows for these types of innovative technology and advanced medical therapies to be more readily available to women and patients across the heartland.”

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