Dr Vineeta Goel, Director, Radiation Oncology, Fortis Hospital, Shalimar Bagh

Breast cancer treatment has undergone considerable evolution in last many year and has significantly improved survival for patients.

Breast cancers are treated with combination of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy (RT) and sometimes hormonal therapy.

Radiation therapy is an essential treatment for breast cancer as it reduces the chance of local re-occurrence of cancer in breast. Patients who are treated with radiation therapy for breast cancer are also known to live/survive longer.

Traditionally, radiation therapy is given 5 days a week over 4 -5 weeks.

In recent past, there have been several technological advances in breast cancer radiation therapy. One of these advances is called accelerated partial breast irradiation (APBI).

APBI is used for selected women with early localized breast cancer. In this nylon catheters/tubes are placed around tumor bed during breast cancer surgery (Picture 1). Two to three days after surgery, radiation therapy is started to tumour bearing area/bed. This radiation therapy is given twice daily over 4 consecutive days using catheters placed at the time of surgery with HDR Brachytherapy machine (Picture 2). Several scientific studies have confirmed that APBI is as effective and safe as 4-5 weeks of RT in selected patients.

Picture 1- Brachytherapy catheters placed around tumour bed intraoperatively

Picture 2- Women receiving APBI with HDR Brachytherapy

APBI has several advantages

  1. Much shorter treatment time (4 days with APBI compared with 4-5 weeks normally).
  2. Much lesser radiation dose to lungs and heart.
  3. APBI is a very precise form of RT.

APBI is the way to go for safe delivery of RT with significantly shorter duration of treatment.