MUHC treatment cuts radiation time for breast cancer patients
No matter what goes wrong, Janet Pegg never slows down. Not even last March, when she found out she had breast cancer.
“I have a handicapped daughter that stays at home. She's 47, I have to take care of her. I can't go for radiation every day for four to six weeks,” she said.
Her doctors put her in a clinical trial at the MUHC, treating her cancer with a German-made device called the Intrabeam. One Intrabeam treatment after surgery replaces up to 30 treatments of conventional radiation therapy.
“The patient goes under anesthesia, has her breast surgery and gets her radiation treatment at the same time. When she wakes up everything is already done,” said Dr. Tarek Hijal, the MUHC’s director of radiation oncology.
Intrabeam treatment is quicker than conventional radiation, has fewer side effects and saves roughly $1,000 per patient. But it's not for everyone – patients must have a low risk of recurrence, so they're usually above 60 years old with a tumor less than two centimetres long.
Right now, the treatment is only used on breast cancer patients but the MUHC is hoping it will soon be available for testing in patients with pancreatic and rectal cancer.
“We want Quebecers to know that as a cancer centre, we are doing cutting edge technology and I think other centres are going to adopt this,” said Dr. Sarkis Meterissian, director of the Cedars Breast Clinic.