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New treatment for certain kind of breast cancer available in Syracuse

Upstate Medical University

A new treatment available in Syracuse for a certain kind of breast cancer can eliminate weeks of radiation therapy. 

This new treatment, called intraoperative radiation therapy, essentially combines radiation therapy with surgery. Upstate Cancer Center breast surgeon Dr. Lisa Lai said after a tumor is removed, a balloon is installed in the spot left by the tumor. Then, a radiologist delivers a big dose of radiation therapy in that spot.

"This greatly changes the recovery and treatment course for breast cancer," said Lai. "The alternative to the intraoperative radiation would be about three to four weeks of outpatient radiation treatments."

Cindy Steger of Tully had a successful surgery using this technique a month ago.

"When Dr. Lai called and told me I had clean tissue, I think she must have thought I was really out of it," said Steger. "It didn’t dawn on me until after I hung up, that’s it. One treatment and done.”

This procedure leads to fewer side effects, and would apply to about 20 percent of breast cancer patients that come to the Upstate Cancer Center. Lai said this continues the trend in cancer treatment away from maximum highly intensive therapies.

"What they have usually found, is that there are at least equal cancer outcomes and often times less side effect and less harm to the patient," said Lai. "We have come so far in the treatment of breast cancer in a short period of time.”