Breast Health Network

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March 31, 2014

New Treatment Offers Radiation at Time of Breast Cancer Surgery

Some patients with early stage breast cancer may now have the option of receiving both surgery and radiation treatment at the same time thanks to a new therapy offered by specialists at OU Medical Center and the Peggy and Charles Stephenson Cancer Center at the University of Oklahoma.

The procedure is called intraoperative radiation therapy (IORT). With IORT, specialists are able to use a balloon with an X-ray tube in the center of it, to deliver a concentrated dose of radiation therapy to the breast tissue immediately adjacent to the surgical bed, the area at highest risk for recurrence. 

“Once the tumor is surgically removed, a small inflatable balloon and miniature X-ray source are temporarily placed into the surgical cavity. Radiation treatment is then delivered in as little as eight minutes,” said Ozer Algan, M.D. radiation oncologist with the Stephenson Cancer Center. “IORT at the time of surgery delivers a single, prescribed, targeted dose of radiation to the region of breast at highest risk of developing a local recurrence. The goal is to target and kill any potential remaining cancer cells while reducing the overall duration of radiation treatment for patients with early stage breast cancer.”

IORT at the time of surgery provides a new option for some patients that helps eliminate the need for weeks of traditional, external beam radiation therapy.

 “We are committed to providing our patients with breakthrough treatment options that improve care and promote quality of life,” said William Dooley, M.D., breast surgeon with OU Medical Center and the OU Breast Institute. “With IORT at the time of surgery, the patient often  is able to avoid weeks of external beam radiation treatments. That means less travel, fewer missed days of work, less disruption to their daily lives and less anxiety for the patient.”

In addition, IORT helps minimize radiation to healthy tissue and organs, such as the lungs or heart, while preserving more healthy tissue, like the skin, that could be damaged using other techniques.

“I think it is great for patients to have this opportunity because it keeps you from having to go back and forth for weeks of radiation following surgery,” said Linda Skala, 61, of Oklahoma City. She recently received IORT at the time of her lumpectomy at OU Medical Center.

In addition to added convenience, IORT also offers other potential benefits for breast cancer patients. For example, breast cancer patients who undergo IORT with lumpectomy are potentially able to have another lumpectomy followed by radiation. This offers an additional option for patients who experience a recurrence, or if a new tumor develops in a different part of the breast.

To be eligible for IORT, the following criteria typically apply:
    •    Be a patient who would normally undergo a lumpectomy followed by radiation
    •    Be in the early stages of breast cancer
    •    Have a small tumor
    •    Be over the age of 50

“If you are a candidate for IORT, I highly recommend it,” Skala said, adding that she enjoyed a short recovery time and had no side effects from the radiation treatment.   The IORT system currently in use at OU Medical Center is the Xoft® Axxent® Electronic Brachytherapy System®.

OU Medical Center, including The Children's Hospital at OU Medical Center is Oklahoma's largest and most comprehensive hospital.  It is located in the heart of Oklahoma City. We provide a full range of hospital services for every patient, from the smallest neonate to the most critically ill senior.

As Oklahoma’s only comprehensive academic cancer center, the Peggy and Charles Stephenson Cancer Center at the University of Oklahoma is raising the standard of cancer treatment in the state and region through patient-centered care, research and education. In association with the Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust, the Stephenson Cancer Center is decreasing the burden of cancer in Oklahoma through innovative laboratory, clinical and populations-based research. Cancer Center scientists are conducting more than 100 cancer research projects supported by more than $20 million in peer-reviewed annual funding from sponsors, including the National Cancer Institute and the American Cancer Society. The Stephenson Cancer Center is located in a state-of-the-art, 210,000-square-foot facility on the campus of the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center in Oklahoma City. For additional information, visit  For information about clinical trials visit or call (405) 271-8777.

Breast Health Network Partnership