Radioactive Seeds May Offer Treatment Option for Breast Cancer
"Theoretically, the brachytherapy can be used as a treatment for primary disease after lumpectomy," says Zelefsky, but he stresses that this is by no means the standard of care for initial breast cancer. Mulrain did not undergo any surgery.
Still, many U.S. breast cancer experts are not sure what role brachytherapy should play in breast cancer treatment.
"The data are not available, and we are not sure how effective brachytherapy is for breast cancer," says Mitchell Gaynor, MD, medical director and director of medical oncology at the Cornell Center for Complementary and Integrative Medicine in New York City.
Sandra Swain, MD, acting branch chief of the medicine branch in the division of clinical sciences at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Md., agrees. "Most people in the U.S. are not doing it," she says. "It is not the wave of [the] future and involves a lot of radiation precautions."
This much we know for sure, says Linda Frame, RN, senior clinical adviser for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation in Dallas: Women who are at high risk of a breast cancer recurrence benefit from radiation therapy following surgery.
Patients should discuss complementary or alternative therapies with their doctors, as some of these therapies may create problems, she says. "It really behooves women to be informed and have all the treatment options laid out. This may mean going to more than one doctor," she tells WebMD. "Do a little footwork. Ask about clinical trials."
When it comes to choosing treatment for breast cancer, it is most important that "women make informed decisions and get all the information," Frame says. "Certainly, clinical trials need to be one of those options, [and] if there is a clinical trial that [a woman] would be eligible for, that option needs to be laid out for her."