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APBI Now Available at Two Regional Care Centers

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MD Anderson now offers some patients with newly diagnosed, early breast cancer a new treatment option at two of its regional care centers.

Accelerated partial breast irradiation (APBI) is available at MD Anderson Regional Care Center in Bay Area and MD Anderson Radiation Treatment Center in Bellaire. Also known as brachytherapy, the technique may be an alternative to the current standard of care, which is four to six weeks of daily external beam radiation after lumpectomy.

APBI directly treats the area in the breast at highest risk for recurrence, while minimizing the dose to the healthy breast tissue. It reduces the number of radiation treatments dramatically, from four to six weeks of daily treatments to approximately five days of
twice-daily treatments.

With APBI, the breast surgeon inserts a small tube or balloon-like device into the lumpectomy cavity and inflates it to fill the small, hollowed out area of the breast where the tumor once was. Richard Ehlers, M.D., a breast surgeon who cares for patients at MD Anderson Regional Care Centers in Sugar Land and Katy, says the devices come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes to suit the needs of each patient. He adds that coordination of care between the surgeon, radiation oncologist and patient is vital.

Once the patient recovers from surgery, she will see her radiation oncologist for planning and treatment, which will take eight to 10 days. Elizabeth Bloom, M.D., who brought the technique to MD Anderson Radiation Treatment Center in Bellaire in 2008, says a tube or catheter carries the radioactive pellet or seed into the implanted device in the breast cavity. The seeds are left in place for five to 10 minutes -- about the length of a typical radiation treatment -- and then removed when the patient leaves the center. The patient returns twice a day for treatment for five days.

Matthew Ballo, M.D., a radiation oncologist at MD Anderson Regional Care Center in Bay Area, has been treating women with APBI since August. He says that, while the treatment rapidly is becoming a standard of care, it is not suitable for every patient. Ballo says the best candidate for the technique is a woman more than 50 years old, who has a relatively small tumor and has disease that is confined to the breast.

The facilities in Bellaire and Bay Area participate in research studying recurrence, survival, side effects and how the treatment compares to the traditional form of radiation. MD Anderson's Proton Therapy Center on the main campus also has a new protocol open using proton therapy to deliver partial breast irradiation.

To learn more about APBI, listen to the audio interview on the topic with Ehlers and Bloom. This podcast is one of a large and growing library of educational interviews from MD Anderson that also is available for downloading at no charge on iTunesU.

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