Editor’s Note: Dr. Anu Singh, pictured second from the right, passed away suddenly on March 9, 2013. Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Center expresses its condolences to her family and colleagues.

New radiation therapy significantly reduces treatment time for breast cancer

A new and innovative form of radiation therapy is dramatically reducing the treatment time for women who have breast cancer—from five or six weeks to only five days for some women. The treatment, called highdose rate (HDR) brachytherapy, is part of the comprehensive cancer treatment offered by the Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Center cancer care team in its radiation treatment centers.

“Brachytherapy means we are treating you from inside of your body. That allows us to precisely target the tumor with powerful radiation and spare the healthy breast tissue,” says Amar Rewari, M.D., MBA, radiation oncologist at Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical CenterRadiation Oncology Center.

HDR treatment, which is painless and can be done as an outpatient, begins after a lumpectomy. The patient’s breast surgeon inserts a multicatheter applicator, which is like a small tube, into the breast. The patient then goes to the Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical CenterRadiation Oncology Center at Germantown, where the applicator is connected to the HDR machine containing the radiation source. The radioactive source travels down the catheter tubes into the breast applicator, releasing a high-dose rate of radiation to destroy the tumor cells. The radiation source then travels back into the machine and the patient goes home. After just five days of treatment, the applicator is removed.

“With today’s state-of-the-art technology, we have better control over where the radiation is delivered, making more women eligible for this treatment than ever before,” Dr. Rewari explains. “We are excited to offer HDR brachytherapy to our community.”

Candidates for HDR brachytherapy are women who have early stage, hormone-positive breast cancer. It is not an option for women whose disease has spread or who have later stages of cancer.

Nearly two-thirds of all cancer patients undergo radiation. Other forms of radiation therapy include low-dose rate (LDR) brachytherapy, in which the radioactive seeds are left inside the body and slowly release radiation, and traditional external radiation therapy, which uses high-powered X-ray beams to attack the tumor from outside the body. All treatment methods are offered by Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical CenterRadiation Oncology, which also features board-certified radiation oncologists Donald Bridges, M.D., Catherine Salem, M.D., and Anu Singh, M.D.

The technology for HDR brachytherapy can also be used to treat gynecologic, esophageal, lung, skin and muscle cancers.

Outpatient Services Expand in Rockville

Later this year, Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Center will expand access to important outpatient cancer care services in Montgomery County with the opening of the new Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical CenterAquilino Cancer Center on its Rockville campus. Patients fighting cancer will be able to obtain treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy at the Aquilino Cancer Center. They will also have access to clinical trials and navigation services with oncology nurses, a social worker and a dietitian. Visit www.yourcancerteam.com to learn more about the Aquilino Cancer Center.