Estimates for 2002 indicate that in developed countries, there were over 700,000 incidences of breast cancer. In developing countries there were an estimated 500,000 incidences.1
Despite a rising incidence of breast cancer, survival rates have increased in recent decades thanks to screening programmes (mammography) and improvements in breast cancer treatment.1
Brachytherapy (high precision, targeted radiotherapy) enables breast preserving surgical techniques to be used (i.e., lumpectomy rather than mastectomy). This is made possible by the placement of radioactive sources directly in the breast tissue - providing targeted and effective radiation doses to kill any residual cancer cells.
These highly localized methods of delivering the radiation source confine irradiation to the area of the lumpectomy and allow for increased dose fractions of radiation to be administered over shorter treatment times.
Breast brachytherapy uses high dose rate (HDR) brachytherapy. For further information on how brachytherapy works, see the background section. Brachytherapy, can be used after surgery (post lumpectomy), before chemotherapy, and alone or in combination with external beam radiotherapy (EBRT).
If brachytherapy is used as the sole method of radiation therapy after surgery, treatment times can be reduced from 5–6 weeks to just 5–7 days. This is known as accelerated partial breast irradiation (APBI).
There are a number of methods available to deliver the additional 'boost' dose of radiotherapy using brachytherapy. Multiple interstitial catheters or a balloon catheter can be used (as described above). There is also a newer method available that uses the dosimetry principles of brachytherapy to precisely target radiation using a radiation source placed around the breast. This non-invasive method is known as 'image guided breast irradiation'.
Polgar et al, 20078
and breast cancer
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