Intraoperative Radiotherapy (IORT)
First in the UK
The Breast Unit at the Hospital of St John and St Elizabeth is the first private hospital in the UK to offer Intraoperative Radiotherapy (IORT).
This pioneering technique allows breast cancer sufferers to avoid up to 6 weeks of radiotherapy. Instead, IORT can be delivered in a single dose, directly to the breast during surgery.
An international clinical trial of IORT (known as TARGIT), published in the leading medical journal, the Lancet, found that IORT has a similar success rate to conventional radiotherapy with less side effects.
Who can have it?
An estimated 80% of all patients who undergo breast conserving surgery can be treated with this new method. Clinical studies show the recurrence rate is very low after a boost of IORT and subsequent shorter external beam radiotherapy.
A patient must be a suitable candidate in order to be eligible for breast cancer IORT. This treatment is generally reserved for individuals with early stage disease.
Two ways of delivering IORT
1. Single dose
Single dose radiotherapy takes only 30 minutes and may be an option for patients with early-stage breast cancer often discovered in mammography screening. Targeted radiation is delivered with high precision after the tumour has been removed to preserve surrounding tissue and organs. With traditional radiotherapy the entire breast receives radiation, which exposes all the breast and surrounding tissue to a high dose of radiation for 6 weeks, 5 days a week. Considerable time and cost is saved by IORT.
2. Boost therapy
Boost IORT is recommended to higher risk patients. It is applied in an identical manner to the single dose. However, these Boost IORT patients then have traditional radiotherapy, but save up to 10 days of external beam radiation. The pilot trial has reported one of the lowest recurrence rates after 5 years.
Most major insurance companies will cover the cost of IORT, subject to clinical criteria.