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Oncoplastic Breast Surgery and Intraoperative Radiation Therapy Now Available to Treat Breast Cancer

SEATTLE – (April 12, 2012) – Women with breast cancer now have two new treatment options available to them at Virginia Mason Medical Center.

Virginia Mason is the first medical center in the state of Washington to offer intraoperative radiation therapy (IORT) for treatment of women with early stage breast cancer.

With IORT, the radiation oncologist and breast surgeon work together in the operating room to give a one-time dose of radiation directly to the inside of the breast. The breast cancer is removed by the breast surgeon and then a balloon catheter is placed in the breast cavity where the breast cancer was located. After the catheter is hooked up to the radiation machine, treatment takes only a few minutes. The balloon is removed and the surgical site is closed. There is no need for additional radiation therapy treatments for the majority of patients.

By contrast, standard radiation therapy treats the whole breast for a few minutes a day for 3 to 6 weeks. Whole breast radiation therapy has been proven to be safe and effective for treating cancer with a low risk of recurrence.

Recent studies have shown that IORT also has a high degree of safety and may be an effective treatment for appropriate patients. Early reports suggest that there is a very low risk of cancer recurring that is comparable to whole breast radiation. However, because IORT is a new technique for treating breast cancer, there is not yet enough long-term data to make IORT a standard treatment option.

So, Virginia Mason is now offering IORT to women as part of a clinical trial to confirm the long-term effectiveness of this treatment. During a clinical trial, patients are closely monitored over an extended period of time. If the long term results of this trial and others across the country prove to be as promising as the early results, it is expected that IORT will eventually become a standard treatment option for appropriate patients.

Women age 45 or older with early stage breast cancer may be candidates for IORT. Women with newly diagnosed breast cancer are seen by specialists on our breast cancer team and together decide on the best treatment option not only for radiation but for surgery and additional treatment such as chemotherapy and anti-estrogen therapy.

"IORT is a tremendous leap forward in the treatment of women with early stage breast cancer," says Janie Grumley, MD, FACS, a fellowship-trained breast surgical oncologist at Virginia Mason. "There are many potential benefits to IORT. As part of the study, we hope to find that there is a low risk of cancer coming back in the breast, a better cosmetic outcome, better quality of life, and a lower cost treatment."

"I am very excited to be able to add IORT to our arsenal of radiation therapy options," adds radiation oncologist Michelle Yao, MD. "I anticipate that this will be a game-changer for the treatment of our patients with low-risk breast cancer.  We are hoping to show that we can effectively treat these patients in a way that minimizes treatment of normal tissues and is much more convenient to the patient."

Virginia Mason is also offering oncoplastic breast surgery to women with breast cancer. During oncoplastic surgery, the surgeon uses plastic surgery techniques to remove the cancer and restore the breast’s cosmetic appearance. Knowing that the shape of the breast can be restored allows the breast surgeon to remove more breast tissue. This makes it possible to perform a lumpectomy rather than a mastectomy for larger tumor, giving more women the opportunity for breast conservation. There is a better chance of achieving what is called a "clear margin" (a rim of normal tissue around the cancer) since more tissue around the tumor can be removed.

This procedure differs from a standard lumpectomy, during which the cancer and surrounding tissue are removed, leaving a cavity in the breast that fills with fluid. Over time as the fluid absorbs, the cavity scars and the skin can pucker or indent, leaving a cosmetic deformity. Some women choose to live with these changes, while others opt for reconstructive surgery by a plastic surgeon to restore the breast’s appearance. The cosmetic outcome of oncoplastic breast surgery nearly always makes a second reconstructive surgery unnecessary.

Oncoplastic surgery and IORT can be done separately, but many patients are candidates for both. "Oncoplastic surgery and IORT together allow us as a team to deliver safe effective breast cancer care that is less painful, involves fewer surgeries and treatments, is less costly and provides a better cosmetic outcome," states Dr Grumley. "More importantly, these options leave the door open for more aggressive treatments such as mastectomy and traditional radiation therapy if they are needed later."

For more information about oncoplastic breast surgery and intraoperative radiation therapy, please visit

About Virginia Mason Medical Center
Virginia Mason Medical Center, founded in 1920, is a nonprofit regional health care system in Seattle that serves the Pacific Northwest. Virginia Mason employs more than 5,300 people and includes a 336-bed acute-care hospital; a primary and specialty care group practice of more than 450 physicians; satellite locations throughout the Puget Sound area; and Bailey-Boushay House, the first skilled-nursing and outpatient chronic care management program in the U.S. designed and built specifically to meet the needs of people with HIV/AIDS. Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason is internationally recognized for its breakthrough autoimmune disease research. Virginia Mason was the first health system to apply lean manufacturing principles to health care delivery to eliminate waste and improve quality and patient safety.

Awards and distinctions include Top Hospital of the Decade by The Leapfrog Group, 2012 Top Hospital (for the sixth consecutive year) by The Leapfrog Group, 2012 Distinguished Hospital for Clinical Excellence from HealthGrades®, and 2012 America’s 100 Best Specialty Excellence Award for Overall Cardiac and Gastrointestinal Care from HealthGrades.

To learn more about Virginia Mason Medical Center, please visit or follow @VirginiaMason on Twitter.

For media inquiries, contact:
John Gillespie
Media Relations
(206) 341-1509 (o)
(206) 402-2822 (m)

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