St John of God Subiaco Hospital has become the first private hospital in Australia to introduce Intraoperative Radiation Therapy (IORT) for breast cancer.
Breast surgeons Prof Christobel Saunders and Dr Lee Jackson, along with GenesisCare Radiation Oncologists Dr Yvonne Zissiadis and Dr Margaret Latham, are undertaking the IORT procedure with training of other breast surgeons underway.
The procedure is only suitable for certain women whose breast tumours are low-risk.
Christobel told Medical Forum said she had worked on trials for IORT as consultant at University College London in the 1990s. Follow-up studies will be done on those paitents which will give a deeper picture of the efficacy of the therapy.
The surgical team operates to remove the tumour, add shielding to protect surrounding tissue, and then the radiation oncologists direct a calculated dose of radiation into the incision at the tumour site.
“Studies have shown that if radiotherapy is given at the same time as surgery for certain selected, low-risk breast tumours, there is equal local control. So, in other words, no higher local recurrence rates,” Christobel said.
“IORT can help women avoid six or seven weeks of post-op therapy. That is great for every woman but especially those who live in the country, who we know have a 50% chance of choosing mastectomy because they don’t feel they can stay away from their homes for that long.
But it’s important to reiterate it’s not for every patient, and it needs tumour pathology.”
Christobel said IORT was available at SCGH but because of scheduling and difficulty it was not often used.
“IORT means an extra 45 minutes in the operating theatre, but that avoids anywhere between three and seven weeks of daily radiotherapy afterwards,” she said.
The IORT equipment was funded by philanthropic support of a group of St John of God Foundation donors, including the Carcione Foundation.