New drugs and treatments are helping many more women beat breast cancer. The newest breakthrough has women leaving the hospital the same day as their surgery.
Joanne Duffy was one of the first to have a lumpectomy and radiation in one surgery.
If a woman has a lumpectomy for breast cancer, the site where the cancer will most likely come back is the site where it was before, said Dr. Stephen Grobmyer, a surgical oncologist.
That's why immediately following tumor removal, surgeons are using intra-operative radiation therapy to specifically target the area where the tumor was removed.
The radiation only travels about a centimeter, so it really has no chance of damaging normal tissue, Dr. Grobmyer said.
Traditionally, patients would receive monthly chemotherapy for a year after surgery, followed by daily radiation treatments for three to five weeks.
The intra-operative treatment cuts out radiation treatments for many patients. Chemo treatment depends on the size and type of tumor.
It's allowing us to tailor the treatment to the specifically to the patient and their type of breast cancer, Dr. Grobmyer said.
Intra-operative therapy wiped out Joanne's cancer, and now she's helping other women.
Because healthy tissue is not damaged, recovery time is quicker with the intra-operative procedure. In fact, some patients can go home the same day as the surgery, and they don't have to come back. The procedure itself only takes about two and a half hours.
Since this is still being studied, doctors are only using it for patients with early stage breast cancer who are age 60 or older.
The procedure is available locally at Virginia Mason Hospital and Medical Center.