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Breast cancer patients at Dignity Health St. Mary’s Medical Center may be able to receive complete radiation treatment in only five days through high-dose rate (HDR) brachytherapy. This new treatment option delivers a precise, highly concentrated dose of radiation from inside the breast.
“The most significant benefit of HDR is that treatment can be completed in five days, versus six weeks with the common external beam radiation therapy,” said Pamela Lewis, MD, medical director of the Sister Diane Grassilli Center for Women's Health at St. Mary's Medical Center. “HDR can offer patients a much quicker and more effective method of radiation treatment, often with fewer side effects and less downtime than with standard radiation.”
During HDR treatment, the surgeon implants a small, temporary catheter into the lumpectomy cavity following tumor removal. Several days later, the patient returns and the HDR machine is affixed to the catheter, where treatment is delivered via radioactive seeds precisely to the area where the tumor was located.
Similar to external radiation beam therapy, the hyper-accurate HDR brachytherapy ensures the maximum radiation dose is given to cancerous tissues while minimizing exposure to the surrounding healthy tissue. The treatment is administered twice a day for five days on an outpatient basis, after which the device is removed, leaving no radioactive seeds behind. HDR can be used in conjunction with other treatment options.
Not all patients will meet the criteria for HDR treatment established from various medical societies. Tumor size, location, and other factors must be considered. Patients should speak with their physician to determine if this treatment is right for them, or contact the Sister Diane Grassilli Center for Women’s Health at 415.750.HERS.
The Sister Diane Grassilli Center for Women’s Health also offers the most comprehensive breast imaging capabilities found in San Francisco including next-generation 3D tomosynthesis technology and Whole Breast Ultrasound. St. Mary’s has been designated as a Center of Excellence by the American College of Radiology, a recognition that represents the national gold standard.
Dignity Health St. Mary's Medical Center is an accredited, not-for-profit community hospital that has been caring for the people of San Francisco since 1857. Located across from Golden Gate Park, it is the longest continually running hospital in San Francisco. St. Mary’s has been named a 2014 Top Performer in Key Quality Measures by The Joint Commission for excellence in patient outcomes. For three consecutive years, from 2014 to 2016, St. Mary’s received the Distinguished Hospital Award for Clinical Excellence from Healthgrades. St. Mary’s was also recognized as one of the Top 100 Orthopedic Programs nationally by Becker’s Hospital Review and is a Certified Stroke Center by the Joint Commission. St. Mary’s state-of-the-art Cancer Center offers the full-range of oncology, radiation, and imaging services. Beyond clinical care, St. Mary's is committed to furthering the healing ministry, and to providing high-quality, affordable healthcare to the community we serve.