Buddy Check 12: Partial Breast Radiation

By Christy Hendricks
CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - One of the most common treatments for breast cancer is radiation---usually of the whole breast, but more women are turning to partial breast radiation.
It's a way to focus the radiation on the affected area.
A couple years after the first local patient received this treatment, she says she's still glad she took the risk.
"It's been two years so I'm really feeling good about it," said June Peetz. 
June says the option of partial breast radiation allowed her to reduce treatment time from the standard six or seven weeks to one week.
"I was really only out of work for like a week," she said. 
That's one advantage Dr. Joseph Miller says attracts many women to this type of treatment.
"Radiation of the whole breast is tolerated well, but it leaves the breast somewhat thicker, firmer, more fibrotic feeling and you're radiation normal tissue," Millers said.
Here's how it works.  A balloon is inserted during surgery, usually a lumpectomy.
Then twice a day for five days in a special radiation room a robot drives the radiation into the tube attached to the balloon.
"That'll be driven out into the middle of this balloon," Miller said.  "There's a core here and it'll come to one to three to five different specified points exactly measured and give off the radiation over a period of somewhere between five maybe up to 15 minutes."
Dr. Miller says the cost is comparable to standard radiation and covered by most insurance.
Now June is back to her busy schedule--working two jobs, running a farm, and caring for her family.
"Catching mine at an early stage I was able to go through this and do it, get it over with and don't have the long side effects," she said.
Dr. Miller says about 10 to 20 percent of breast cancer patients are eligible for partial breast radiation because the cancer must be caught early usually stage one and be a small tumor. 
Southeast Hospital has treated more than 30 women since it began the procedure two years ago and the results have been positive so far.  Doctors say the partial and whole breast radiation treatments have similar long term survival rates.