NewsYour Health MattersWomens Health


Doctors use new technology to treat breast cancer in certain patients

Process combines radiation, surgery
Posted at 9:56 AM, Oct 12, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-12 09:56:37-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Allison Gribbin said her breast cancer diagnosis stopped her in her tracks.

"It was more like angry and frustrated," she said.

Gribbin said she lives for work and didn't want to take any time away from the children she helps, even for treatment and recovery.

"I'm somebody who doesn't want to stop doing what I'm doing," she said. "I was a high flight risk. We laugh about it, but I was."

Her doctor, Dr. Elena Rehl, is a breast surgeon at Good Samaritan Medical Center.

"I'm looking at what type of breast cancer do they have and then tailoring it to that individual," she explained. "We have different tools that we can use."

Ultimately, Gribbin and her doctors decided on a new technology, called intraoperative radiation therapy, also known as IORT.

"In a select group of patients that have small, well-behaved cancers, we're able to give the radiation dose during surgery," Rehl said.

Dr. Elena Rehl, breast surgeon at Good Samaritan Medical Center
Dr. Elena Rehl is a breast surgeon at Good Samaritan Medical Center.

Radiation, she explained, is typically given as a treatment after surgery, after the wound is healed.

"The big problem with regular radiation, external-beam radiation, is that it's really inconvenient for patients, because they have to come into the hospital every day Monday through Friday, anywhere from three to six weeks," she said.

Gribbin said that was enough to make her decide to do it all at once.

"It's what we refer to as then a one-and-done," she said. "Otherwise, I don't think I would have addressed it. I wouldn't have. I would have just carried on doing what I do."

Rehl cautioned it's not for everyone or every type of cancer.

"It's really more convenient for patients, but because it is a new technology, it's not as tried and tested as regular external-beam radiation, and that's why we use it in a select group of patients that have small, well-behaved breast cancers," she said.