Syracuse (WSYR-TV) -- Bachytherapy has become increasingly and commonly used in the United States to treat breast cancer after a lumpectomy. And while, both this therapy and the standard treatment -- whole breast irradiation -- are usually successful, a new study finds there may be some differences in the outcomes for older women between the two treatments.
Phyllis Nawrot has lived with cystic breast disease since she was 24.
“I had been fighting this fight with breast cancer, could it be, could it not be and finally this time I just had a gut reaction it really was going to be,” Nawrot said.
Nawrot was diagnosed with breast cancer.
She said, "I just decided at that moment that I was going to have to do what I could do to help the doctors and the medicine fix my body."
After a lumpectomy, Phyllis and her doctor had to decide the next course of treatment – either whole breast irradiation or brachytherapy.
“Brachytherapy involves placing a radiation pellet or seed in the breast after lumpectomy to treat any hidden cancer that could be in the breast after surgery,” said Dr. Benjamin D. Smith, with the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.
The treatment affects les breast tissue and also requires a shorter course of treatment. Treating the whole breast involves using an external radiation beam and daily treatments for up to seven weeks. Dr. Smith and co-authors studied Medicare claims of more than 92,000 women diagnosed with breast cancer between 2003 and 2007. Almost 7,000 were treated with brachytherapy and more than 85,000 were treated with whole breast irradiation.
“Women treated with brachytherapy had approximately twice the risk of losing their breast within five years of diagnosis compared to women treated with whole breast irradiation,” Dr. Smith said. "Women had a higher likelihood of getting a breast infection after treatment and were also more likely to have other complications associated with their surgeries, such as bleeding or wound breakdown, or a fluid collection develop in their breast."
Phyllis opted for whole breast irradiation and recently completed treatment.
"Some of the tradeoffs between brachytherapy and whole breast irradiation may be a little bit more complex than were previously appreciated and it's important for women to know these potential limitations when they're choosing the best treatment for them,” Dr. Smith said.
Phyllis is now looking forward to helping other women going through cancer treatment and even grandchildren one day.
Researchers point out that both treatments had no difference on rates of survival for these women.