Innovations in breast cancer treatment are attracting patients from all over to Rochester. Rochester Regional Health’s Breast Center is the only cancer treatment center in our region to offer innovative and effective breast cancer treatments like Intraoperative Radiation Therapy and surface guided RT for left breast cancer using Vision RT. Lori Medeiros, MD, Executive Director of the Rochester Regional Health Breast Center said innovation plays a major role in enhancing the patient experience.
“Innovation allows us to continually offer our patients the very best options when it comes to breast cancer treatment,” said Dr. Medeiros. “The more tools we have and the more sophisticated we can be, the better we can improve the patient experience.”
One in eight women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime, and in 2019, more than 41,000 women will die from breast cancer in the United States. Breast Cancer Awareness Month aims to bring more awareness to breast cancer, while innovative treatments, said Dr. Medeiros, try to improve both patient outcome and the journey to recovery.
“The point of innovation is to make things better, to improve something to make the outcome as close as possible to what our patients need.” And it’s working.
Intraoperative Radiation Therapy
Death rates from breast cancer are on the decline. In the past ten years, death rates have dropped an average of 1.9% per year, while the rate of breast cancer diagnoses has been stable.
So, what’s contributing to better outcomes? For one, new treatment options like Intraoperative Radiation Therapy (IORT), which is offered at Rochester Regional Health’s Lipson Cancer Institute.
IORT is a single dose of highly localized radiation delivered directly into the tumor site at the time of surgery. IORT keeps the surrounding tissue safe and doesn’t require additional treatments. It allows for higher effective doses of radiation to be used compared with conventional radiation therapy.
The one-time procedure takes place immediately after a lumpectomy is performed. This means that patients aren’t required to go through an additional six weeks of radiation therapy, a benefit that’s not lost on Dr. Medeiros.
“Breast cancer is disruptive, both physically and emotionally, so we don’t want our treatments to be disruptive too,” said Dr. Medeiros.
“Many patients drive up to two hours to see us since they are not in proximity to the equipment needed to deliver effective radiation, and until recently, many faced difficult choices like how to afford treatment and whether or not to chance increased recurrence rates associated with lumpectomy without radiation or face an unwanted mastectomy.”
“Reducing time spent in and out of treatment and whittling treatment down to one day, often the same day as surgery, greatly increases the patient’s experience while preserving good outcomes and chances for cure—and that’s what’s top of mind for us,” added Dr. Medeiros.
Patients can save more than $10,500 annually when receiving IORT treatment over the more traditional approach of external beam radiation therapy (EBRT) according to a recent cost-comparison study by research firm Biomed Central.
The Lipson Cancer Institute is the first cancer center in Western New York to use IORT. “As an oncologist, it’s exciting to use this technology,” said Khusraw Sabit, MD, Radiation Oncologist at Rochester Regional Health.
“The fact that we can offer it, and that people are coming from all over just to get this treatment is exciting for the present and future of oncology.”
Since January, the Lipson Cancer Institute has performed IORT on approximately 50 patients. “We expected to do 25 for the whole year, which is typical for large cancer treatment centers like ours, but we’ve far exceeded that number,” added Dr. Sabit.
Navigating with More Accuracy
One of the main benefits of IORT is the decreased risk of radiation exposure to the organs—which can be even more challenging in left-sided breast cancer. Another innovation which Rochester Regional has recently invested in to help lower those risks for women who are not candidates for IORT is Vision RT.
“Since the heart is primarily on the left side of the chest, no matter how good we are as radiation oncologists, there’s always going to be some dose of radiation to the heart,” said Dr. Sabit. “Vision RT helps us navigate with more accuracy than before.”
Vision RT creates a 3D model of the patient’s body and tracks the surface anatomy in real-time. The software allows Dr. Sabit and his colleagues to keep track of the patient’s movements during radiation therapy, learn the patient’s ideal position for therapy, and make adjustments when necessary.
With Vision RT, Rochester Regional Health doctors deliver treatment in the Deep Inspiration Breath Hold (DIBH) position, where patients take a deep breath and hold it, causing the chest wall and breast to move away from the heart. If the patient’s position suddenly changes during the procedure, Vision RT detects the movement and treatment stops until they return to the ideal position.
“We’re the only cancer center in Western New York to offer surface guided treatment for left breast cancer using Vision RT,” said Dr. Sabit. “It closely aligns with our philosophy with innovation: if there’s a safe and effective technology that we believe is of great benefit to our patients, we will invest in it.”
Keeping Pace with SAVI SCOUT
An estimated 268,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women in the U.S in 2019, according to the National Breast Cancer Foundation. Radar technology like SAVI SCOUT aims to improve the patient experience during and after a lumpectomy and reduce patient anxiety and discomfort while helping to improve accuracy.
The traditional way in which a lumpectomy procedure is performed—a wire inserted into the breast—can be uncomfortable and there’s a risk that the wire could move during the procedure.
SAVI SCOUT improves the patient experience by using radar technology instead of a wire. A small reflector the size of a grain of rice is placed into the breast prior to surgery. The SCOUT system detects the reflector using a radar signal which is designed specifically to aid surgeons locate target tissue to 1mm of accuracy, resulting in more successful surgeries, optimized breast conservation strategies, and better outcomes for patients.
As Breast Cancer Awareness Month continues to raise awareness for breast cancer, doctors at Rochester Regional Health’s Lipson Cancer Institute remain ahead of the curve with innovations in breast cancer treatment, said Dr. Sabit.
“Technologies like SAVI SCOUT, IORT and Vision RT reinforce to our patients in Rochester and beyond that their experiences and outcomes come first for us, and that will never change.”