Balloon Brachytherapy: Breast Cancer Treatment

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The Center for Disease Control reports that breast cancer is the second leading cancer that affects women. The most recent statistics show in 2007, 204,964 women were diagnosed with breast cancer and 40,598 died from the disease. Early treatment is key to survival. The usual therapy for early breast cancer detection has been lumpectomy followed by daily radiation treatments over a period of several weeks. A new therapy delivers radiation directly to the tumor site. Balloon brachytherapy for breast cancer has proven to be an affective treatment.

How it Works

Balloon bracytherpay delivers radiation directly to the tumor site and surrounding tissue. After lumpectomy, the surgeon inserts a tube to the tumor site and inflates a balloon with saline. The balloon is connected to a catheter that is later attached to a delivery device. The device provides radiation seeds to the balloon. Treatment is given on an outpatient basis for five days.

The balloon is usually inserted at the time of surgery but insertion can take place up to ten weeks later.

Treatment allows for high dose radiation to work directly in the tumor site and surrounding area. Small radiation seeds can destroy cancer cells at the primary site rather than affecting the entire breast with traditional radiation therapy.


A study conducted by the American Society of Breast Surgeons followed 400 women for a period of four years that had received balloon brachytherapy for breast cancer. The results showed the recurrence of breast cancer was no greater than those who received traditional treatment. Study results were issued in 2007.


Brachytherapy is a proven treatment for first stage breast cancer. It provides direct radiation therapy rather than the risk of affecting surrounding healthy tissue. The shorter treatment time compared to six weeks of daily radiation with traditional treatment is easier on the patient physically and psychologically. It also is cheaper. According to Science Daily News some women have chosen a mastectomy over lumpectomy because of the cost of daily radiation therapy and the distance they would have to travel for treatment every day.

Balloon brachytherapy delivers precise treatment avoiding the lungs and other breast. It also preserves more breast tissue, thus more favorable cosmetic results. Treatment does not interfere with chemotherapy or other treatments.

Side Effects

The side effects to brachytherapy are no greater than traditional radiation treatment except it is shorter. Some bruising can appear that is common to any breast surgery. Bruising around the tube insertion site may appear but will fade in time.


UCLA Health System reports that three types of breast cancer patients qualify for treatment. The first is patients that have less than 4 lymph nodes involved and a tumor smaller than 3 centimeters. A second condition that benefits from this treatment is locally advanced cancer not involving metastasis. Patients should not have any prior radiation treatment. The third candidate includes even more advanced cancer that involves the chest wall. This treatment can replace more aggressive surgery not advised.


For patients that may be a candidate for this treatment the advantages seem to out weigh more aggressive treatments. Five days compared to six weeks of radiation is more sensible when considering the time, cost, psychological and physical strain involved.

The treatment can also prolong a better quality of life for advanced recurring breast cancer over traditional radiation and chemotherapy.


Science Daily: One Week Radiation Effective Breast Cancer Treatment, Study Suggests

UCLA Health System: Breast Brachytherapy

Pub Med: MammoSite accelerated partial breast irradiation

Onco Link: Recurrence and Survival in the American Society of Breast Surgeons (ASBS) MammoSite RTS Registry Trial