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Treatment A Game Changer For Breast Cancer

One Dose, One Time Early Stage Treatment - A Game Changer For Breast Cancer

The news that Intrabeam, the revolutionary one dose, one time treatment for early-stage breast cancer is being made available to women in the UK by Britain’s national health service has been welcomed by New Zealand breast cancer organisations.

Chairperson of the Breast Cancer Aotearoa Coalition (BCAC), Libby Burgess, says intraoperative radiotherapy is a wonderful advance and she’s pleased to see it’s now been adopted in Britain’s public health system.

Ms Burgess says BCAC is hopeful that New Zealand will soon follow in the footsteps of the UK and publicly fund intraoperative radiation treatment for suitable women: ‘We believe this technology has real benefits for women with early stage breast cancer and we’d like to see it available to all those who meet the criteria, rather than only those who can afford to pay for it. We’re pleased the National Health Committee is taking a closer look at the need to publicly fund this treatment option in New Zealand hospitals.’

Evangelia Henderson, chief executive of the New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation says: `The NHS’s decision to offer IORT to suitable patients is a positive endorsement of this new technology. I’m sure New Zealand clinicians will be paying close attention and this new information will be help them weigh up the benefits of IORT. The convenience aspects for women will be significant.’

Ms Burgess adds: ‘The delivery of surgery and radiotherapy during a single operation offers real advantages to women with low-risk early breast cancer. It eliminates the need for up to six weeks of daily radiation therapy and allows women to avoid ongoing stress and inconvenience and return to their normal lives much faster.

‘The other major advantage of this technology for patients is that it causes less damage to healthy breast tissue, leading to a better cosmetic result and that’s something women with breast cancer really want to see.’

In addition, Ms Burgess explains out that intraoperative radiation therapy will give women with breast cancer more treatment options. She says women in remote areas often choose to have a mastectomy rather than a lumpectomy followed by a long course of radiation therapy. ‘If intraoperative radiotherapy was available in New Zealand public hospitals, then these women would be able to consider this treatment option and avoid more invasive surgery with a longer recovery time.’

The New Zealand National Health Committee is conducting an evidence-based assessment of the various applications of intraoperative radiation therapy. This process will include consultation with the sector. No time frame has been set for a decision.

Last year Auckland Breast Surgeon Dr Erica Whineray Kelly and a team of Auckland breast cancer specialists formed their own service, Focus Radiotherapy, to bring the new treatment option, using the Zeiss Intrabeam intraoperative radiotherapy (IORT) system, to the Southern Cross Hospital, North Harbour Auckland, but they want to make it available to women across the country through the health service.

Outgoing Health Minister Tony Ryall is enthusiastic about the new technology saying that if it lived up to expectations it will be: `A game changer for breast cancer care in New Zealand. Not only will it be of enormous benefit to women but the accountant in me sees the potential for massive savings for the health service too.’

He pointed out: `From new care pathways, to lean thinking, to productive wards, productive operating theatres, smarter post-discharge planning, clinicians have led the way. So too have they led improving cancer radiation and chemotherapy waiting times.’

The Intrabeam intraoperative radiotherapy (IORT) system avoids the traditional 3–6 week course of radiation therapy for 80% of patients and eliminates the need for up to a further 25 visits to hospital for post-operative radiotherapy. This is much more convenient for patients, would save the health service money and could dramatically reduce waiting lists.

Co-founder of Focus Radiotherapy Dr Erica Whineray Kelly says: ` Intrabeam has potential not just for breast radiotherapy, but other types of solid cancers – such as rectal, head and neck, and spine. The difference this is starting to make to people's lives is immeasurable. Our patients awake from surgery knowing that they don't have to have four week's of waiting for the lumpectomy to heal followed by three to six weeks of radiotherapy. For provincial and rural women outside of the six linear accelerator centres current treatment is very challenging, and may end up with some choosing mastectomy because they cannot afford the time and inconvenience. Even for women in cities with linear accelerator centres, the inconvenience and discomfort is very real also, and gets in the way of their careers, family and other activities.

Benefits of INTRABEAM

• A reduction in radiation treatment time for the patient

• Minimized exposure to healthy tissue and organs, such as the ribs, lungs, heart and opposite breast

• No treatment delay for patients who must also undergo chemotherapy as part of their breast cancer treatment

• Same-day treatment with no hospitalisation required

• No travel required to a radiotherapy centre for up to six weeks of daily treatment

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