A Designer Way to Treat Breast Cancer

Cancer Care Centers of Brevard Offers Innovative SAVI Technology for
Early-Stage Breast Cancer Treatment

When the word “designer” comes to mind, it is often equated with the world of high-end fashion. From apparel and shoes to handbags and accessories, a designer item usually assumes better quality at a higher price tag. But an approach to breast cancer treatment at the Cancer Care Centers of Brevard in Melbourne is taking much of what is believed to be true about the word “designer -” and about breast cancer treatment in general – and transforming it into an innovative, fast, cost-conscious and effective option through the use of a device named SAVI.

Most women diagnosed with certain types of early-stage breast cancer are confronted with a myriad of decisions to make, not the least of which is the treatment option they choose. From partial or complete mastectomy (total removal of one or both breasts) to breast conservation therapy (BCT) in the form of lumpectomy accompanied by radiation therapy, each comes with a set of serious considerations and lifestyle choices that must be made.

With the recent spotlight on celebrities undergoing complete double mastectomies either for breast cancer prevention or as a treatment option, many women today are of the unfortunate belief that surviving a breast cancer diagnosis means they should have both breasts removed. For the vast majority, such a drastic measure isn’t necessary. “Women need to understand that many of them have options when it comes to breast cancer treatment,” says Dr. Michael McLaughlin a local breast surgeon with Surgical Specialists in Cocoa Beach. In fact, Dr. McLaughlin reports “for those who are candidates for BCT with lumpectomy accompanied by radiation therapy, there is no scientific difference in long-term breast cancer survival rates when choosing this less-invasive and often less psychologically traumatic treatment option.” The key he says, is finding a physician expert who will be “open and honest about all of the options for each patient, individually.”

Historically, women with early-stage breast cancer who were candidates for breast conservation therapy would undergo surgical removal of the tumor, called a lumpectomy, followed by a course of whole breast irradiation (WBI). The treatment takes place over a six or seven-week period of time and can be accompanied by unpleasant side effects. The financial burden of taking that much time off of work or other duties coupled with the sheer inconvenience of putting “life on hold” for an extended period of time has meant that only 60% of the women eligible to receive BCT, actually do. The SAVI device is poised to change that statistic.

In clinical use since 2006, the SAVI applicator delivers partial irradiation of the breast from the inside. This approach is called breast brachytherapy and with the use of SAVI, allows for accelerated partial breast irradiation (APBI), a shorter course of high-dose radiation for early breast cancer patients following lumpectomy. In a nutshell, it is an innovative device that allows physicians to customize radiation based on each woman’s specific anatomy. SAVI’s unique features enable physicians to precisely target the radiation where it is needed, while minimizing exposure and damage to surrounding healthy tissue. “APBI, delivered by SAVI, is an exciting option available to some patients with early-stage breast cancer and is a promising modality that may potentially replace traditional WBI. As a result of this technology, we can offer patients who are eligible an option which allows the completion of effective radiation therapy in a much shorter time and with less toxicity. For some patients, the duration of treatment affects their decision to preserve their breast,” says Dr. Ravi A. Shankar, a radiation oncologist and medical director of the Cancer Care Centers of Brevard.

As with any type of treatment, outcomes are important. SAVI has been clinically shown to be an effective APBI treatment option, with long-term survival rates on par with those of whole breast, external beam radiation and mastectomy. While longer-term studies are underway, five-year study results show that breast brachytherapy prevents cancer from recurring at the tumor site as effectively as conventional WBI. “SAVI makes it possible for us to provide more women with the advantages of breast brachytherapy,” explains Dr. Emran Imami, a breast surgeon in Melbourne.

Among SAVI’s most attractive features is the fact that it can deliver this “designer” treatment in just five days. Patients love that it offers greater convenience and as a result, less financial stress associated with taking time away from work or other commitments. Carolyn Mussman, a local resident and patient of Dr. McLaughlin’s, underwent treatment with SAVI just a few months ago and says: “My experience was nothing short of perfection. It was convenient and I had no pain and no side effects.” Like many women diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer, Carolyn’s was detected after a routine mammogram in February, 2013. “If I had any recommendation to make, it would be for every eligible woman to be diligent about her yearly mammogram,” she says. “Because my breast cancer was detected early, I feel I had more options available to me, like the SAVI procedure.”

Ironically, a close friend of Carolyn’s who was also diagnosed with breast cancer just two weeks before her, had to undergo a more traditional course of treatment and faced some side effects and set-backs as a result. “I feel very fortunate to have been a SAVI candidate,” Carolyn says. “If any woman out there is eligible and has the opportunity to undergo this procedure, I can’t say enough positive things about it. I had outstanding support from Dr. McLaughlin, Dr. Shankar and the entire nursing staff and team as well. That meant a lot to me.” While treatment convenience is important, so is the efficacy of the chosen treatment. Carolyn considers hers a great success. “After my most recent mammogram they said ‘we’ll see you next year.’ It was music to my ears.”

It appears cancer care has developed some fashion sense, thanks to its latest “designer.”

For information on the Cancer Care Centers of Brevard in Melbourne and SAVI, please call (321) 952-0898, or visit CancerCareBrevard.com.