Medical Monday: Advancements in radiation treatment for breast cancer

PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - When women are diagnosed with breast cancer, a decision is made between having a surgery to remove the tumor but preserve the breast, called a lumpectomy, or having a mastectomy.

"There's been multiple trials with 20-year results that have shown excision plus radiation is equal to mastectomy, so that's one role of radiation in breast cancer," Radiation Oncologist Dr. Jeff Trupp explained. He said patients who are candidates for a lumpectomy receive radiation as an extension to surgery to help reduce the chance that the cancer will return in that breast.

There have been a lot of advancements in radiation therapy. The goal is to limit the amount of radiation to critical organs and focus on the area impacted by the tumor.

"There's intensity modulated radiation therapy, and an advancement of that is rapid arc, which gives us the ability to shape radiation in ways that were not possible in the past. From a radiation delivery standpoint, on the left side where you want to reduce dose to the heart, there are more sophisticated ways of doing radiation to treat the breast and limit dose to the heart or lungs," Dr. Trupp said.

There's also a role for radiation in some patients who do undergo a mastectomy.

According to Dr. Trupp, "If they have a mastectomy and it's early, they most likely won't need radiation. If they did have a positive lymph node, then radiation treatment might be indicated or if there was a positive margin."

It's important to remember that each patient will have a treatment protocol specific to them and their cancer.