APBI offers key benefits for postsurgical breast treatment.
Accelerated partial breast irradiation, or APBI, is a treatment option for some women with early stage breast cancer.
At Princeton Radiation Oncology, we use this technique to deliver focused radiation to the area of the lumpectomy. Our radiation oncologists typically do this by applying small radioactive sources (“seeds”) directly to the lumpectomy area with a catheter, a treatment modality known as brachytherapy. This treatment usually is done with twice-daily treatments for 1 week. (We can also perform APBI without a catheter using external beam radiation with photon or proton therapy.)
How APBI works at Princeton Radiation Oncology.
With the catheter method, we typically perform APBI about 1 to 4 weeks following lumpectomy surgery. During surgery, the breast surgeon will insert a specialized catheter, with part of it remaining outside for delivery of APBI treatment later.
In the next step, your radiation oncologist will carefully plan your treatment using computer-guided imaging. For treatment itself, we connect the catheter to a machine—a remote afterloader—that delivers the radioactive seed into your tissue. For 5 to 10 minutes, the seed delivers radiation to your tissue, after which we remove it and disconnect the catheter. Then you leave and go about your normal routine.
With APBI, the catheter is not radioactive, and you’ll have no restrictions with regard to being around other people.
During the course of your APBI radiation treatments, the catheter remains in place, and the treatment process is repeated twice daily (about 6 hours apart) for 10 total treatments. Then we remove the catheter and place a dressing, and you go back to your life.
Effective treatment that’s easier on you.
Compared to standard radiation treatment, APBI can offer significant benefits for certain people. At less than 1 week, the treatment is far shorter than external beam radiation, which usually lasts 4 to 6 weeks. This is possible because of the high-dose radiation that is concentrated on the tissue surrounding the lumpectomy cavity for short durations, then removed and repeated. This method spares normal tissue and critical organs, such as the heart and lungs, from unnecessary radiation exposure.