The oncology team will work together to create an individualized care plan. Treatments often combine the use of medical, surgical, and radiological interventions to provide the highest level of patient care. We believe in tailoring treatment plans to each patient to maximize survival and to provide the highest quality of life during and after treatment.

Surgery

Your cancer team will determine your breast cancer treatment options based on your type of breast cancer, its stage and grade, size, and whether the cancer cells are sensitive to hormones. Your doctor also considers your overall health and your own preferences.

Most women undergo surgery for breast cancer and also receive additional treatment before or after surgery, such as chemotherapy, hormone therapy or radiation.

Our team embraces the latest available surgical technologies and therapies for diagnosing and treating breast cancer including laser technology, excision, and reconstructive surgery.

Radiation

Radiation oncology doctors use radiation treatments, also referred to as radiation therapy, to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. The radiation energy injures or destroys cells in the target tissue, making it impossible for these cells to continue to grow and divide.

Our physicians offer radiation therapy, which is delivered by a machine outside your body. Breast cancer radiation can last from three days to six weeks, depending on the treatment. A radiation oncologist will determine which treatment is best for you based on your situation, your cancer type, and the location of your tumor.

The WVU Cancer Institute is the only facility in the state of West Virginia to offer Intraoperative Radiation Therapy (IORT) for breast cancer patients using the Zeiss Intrabeam. The Intrabeam is a simple but ingenious device – in essence a miniature electron, beam-driven, X-ray source, which provides a point source of low energy X-rays at the tip of a 3.2-mm diameter tube. The intrabeam can be inserted into the area of interest immediately after excision of the tumor and switched on for 25-45 minutes to provide IORT, accurately targeted to the tissues that are at highest risk of local recurrence.

IORT

What is IORT?

Intraoperative radiation therapy delivers a concentrated dose of radiation therapy to a tumor bed during surgery. This advanced technology may help kill microscopic disease, reduce radiation treatment times, or provide an added radiation “boost.”

Advantages of IORT

Typically, standard radiation therapy involves five days of treatment per week, for a total of three to six weeks. With IORT, our radiation oncologists can achieve a similar radiation effect in a single treatment session while also preserving more healthy tissue. This helps to reduce side effects and the time spent going back and forth to the hospital for radiation treatments.

IORT offers some of the following advantages:

Maximum effect. IORT delivers a concentrated dose of radiation to a tumor site immediately after a tumor is removed, helping to destroy the microscopic tumor cells that may be left behind. The tumor site is typically at higher risk for recurrence than the rest of the breast, and traditional radiation therapy requires a recovery period after surgery, which leaves microscopic disease in the body for longer.

Spares healthy tissues and organs. During IORT, a precise radiation dose is applied to the rim of normal tissue around the resection cavity. The rapid dose fall-off with this technique allows for sparing of the skin, lungs, and heart, which can receive a higher radiation dose with conventional radiation.

Shortened treatment times. IORT may help some patients finish treatment and get back to their lives more quickly by reducing the need for additional radiation therapy, which is typically given over three to six weeks. The IORT treatment itself takes about 25-45 minutes.

Some possible side effects of treatment are skin redness, irritation, and swelling in the treated area, which often improve soon after treatment is complete.

Who is a candidate for IORT?

A patient must be a surgical candidate for lumpectomy in order to be eligible for IORT. This treatment is generally reserved for individuals with early-stage disease and favorable risk factors. Your doctor will discuss whether IORT is an appropriate treatment option for you, based on your individual diagnosis and medical history.

Medication

Your physician may choose chemotherapy as a part of your individualized treatment plan. Chemotherapy drugs work to kill tumor cells and are administered intravenously. In some cases, chemotherapy can be given in pill form. The type of chemotherapy that is used is dependent on the type of cancer.

Chemotherapy can cause many side effects including nausea, vomiting, and hair loss. These side effects can vary depending on the type and dose of drugs that are used. Other medications may be prescribed to help alleviate these symptoms.

Tests can be performed on your tumor cells to determine whether and what kind of chemotherapy would be helpful for you.

Your physician may choose to use targeted drug treatment to focus on specific abnormalities within the cancer cells. These drugs work by blocking these abnormalities, causing the cancer cells to die.