Ogdensburg hospital offers new treatment at Breast Health Center
Tuesday, February 18, 2014 - 8:56 am

OGDENSBURG -- Claxton-Hepburn Medical Center now offers a linear accelerator treatment at the Breast Health Center, which can provide targeted treatment to an effect area, down to the millimeter.

Radiation therapy, a popular, safe method for eradicating cancer cells that may be still be present after surgery, plays an important role in treating all stages of breast cancer. Traditional radiation therapy uses high-energy rays or particles to destroy cancer cells and is typically administered beginning four weeks after a lumpectomy for early-stage breast cancer, according to a hospital statement.

The accelerator offers a quicker, more powerful way to deliver radiation therapy, known as accelerated partial breast irradiation (APBI). During treatments, radiation is delivered to only part of the breast over five days.

“Claxton-Hepburn is passionately committed to obtaining and utilizing the most advanced equipment available that will deliver the most precise dose of radiation possible,” said John W. Gebert, MD, radiation oncologist at the Richard E. Winter Cancer Center at Claxton-Hepburn Medical Center. “Our goal is to destroy the cancer entirely, while preserving as much breast tissue as we can.”

There are two approaches to administering APBI. Breast brachytherapy is an internal form of radiation that requires the placement of a radioactive “seed” near the affected site in an effort to kill any undetected cancer cells that remain after surgery, hospital officials said.

One of the more common procedures utilizes a catheter or “balloon” inserted into the breast tissue. The catheter holds the “seed” in a targeted area during the course of APBI treatment, which lasts an average of five days.

External beam radiation treats part of the breast, but treatment is delivered using the linear accelerator and offers shorter treatment times and can usually be completed in one week, officials said.

The linear accelerator delivers high-energy X-rays to the exact region of the patient’s tumor. These treatments can be designed in such a way that they destroy the cancer cells while sparing the normal tissue. It is a preferable method of treatment, which minimizes radiation, staffers said.

The precision of the radiation dose is equivalent to approximately half the thickness of a dime.

“The linear accelerator blocks the radiation field from damaging the surrounding healthy tissue with unnecessary exposure,” said Doug Salhani, PhD, board-certified medical physicist at Claxton-Hepburn who works with physicians in planning radiation treatments for cancer patients. “It is highly effective in delivering radiation therapy to odd or irregularly shaped tumors, and is especially beneficial for treating tumors that may be close to or surrounding vital organs that were previously considered untreatable.”

“The typical course of treatment with traditional whole breast radiation therapy requires women to come in for radiation sessions over a period of six weeks. That kind of treatment schedule can be difficult for a busy woman to manage,” Gebert said. “APBI can be a more convenient and practical treatment option because it is a single week in duration, allowing many women to continue their normal activities while undergoing radiation.”

Services available at the Breast Health Center in addition to APBI include biopsy, breast-conserving lumpectomy, chemotherapy, CT, PET/CT, MRI, mammography, and mastectomy.

For more information about the oncology services and breast cancer treatment options offered at Claxton-Hepburn’s Breast Health Center, visit www.claxtonhepburn.org.