Procedures: Partial Breast Irradiation

Partial Breast Irradiation, also known as PBI, is a technique for giving radiation to the breast in women who have had a lumpectomy as part of their surgical treatment for breast cancer. The rationale for this technique is to give radiation to the part of the breast where the cancer occurred and where it is most likely to come back should that happen. At this time radiation to the entire breast (whole breast irradiation) is still the standard way of treating the breast after lumpectomy. However, there is now information which shows that partial breast irradiation is as good as whole breast irradiation at 10 years after lumpectomy.

Partial breast irradiation is usually given through a catheter that is inserted into the breast either at the time of surgery or shortly after surgery. The radiation is then placed into the catheter for a short period of time twice a day for 6 days. Although this type of treatment is more intense it occurs over a shorter period of time than whole breast radiation which usually takes about 7 weeks to complete.

Not everyone is a candidate for partial breast radiation. Typically, women eligible for this type of treatment will have smaller tumors (<3 cm in diameter) and negative nodes. The breast must be large enough to accommodate the catheter and there must be enough distance between the catheter and the skin. If you are interested in this type of therapy, please discuss it with your doctor.

There are several types of catheters which can be used for this type of treatment. One of these is the Mammosite catheter, which can be found on their site: