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Radiation Therapy Uses One Dose, Not Weeks

Kealey Bultena
Dr. Julie Reiland poses with breast cancer patient Lu Rice.

A new form of radiation therapy allows breast cancer patients to avoid weeks of trips back-and-forth to the hospital. That means some women who live far away from treatment centers don’t have to jeopardize their health if they can’t make it to radiation. A Sioux Falls hospital is one of eight in the country using what's called IORT. 

Eighteen months ago, Lu Rice was diagnosed with breast cancer. The Madison woman knew she needed surgery and radiation. She’s seen people go through treatment for five days a week.

"And it was up every morning and come down to Sioux Falls, get radiation, home again, turn around the next day, do the same thing for six weeks, and that’s all you basically do for six weeks," Rice says. 

Instead of six weeks, Rice’s radiation took two minutes. It was complete by the end of her lumpectomy. Rice was part of a clinical trial for treatment now considered standard of care for certain breast cancers.

Dr. Julie Reiland with Avera Health is Rice’s breast surgeon. She says intraoperative radiation therapy – IORT – is an option for patients with well-behaved cancer detected early.

"I do a nip-and-tuck, I give the radiation, we close everything up, and so you’re entire local treatment to the breast – radiation and surgery – is done in one day," Reiland says.

Reiland says Avera has used IORT on 100 patients. She says the American Society for Radiation Oncology announced the recommendation last month.

"Electrons – what we use here in Sioux Falls – is the only form of intraoperative radiation that’s been accepted as the standard, so it no longer has to be done under a clinical trial. We don’t theoretically need a protocol," Reiland says. "We’re going to continue to run our protocol, because that’s just good medicine and we want to keep track of our patients. But it’s now considered standard."

Reiland says eliminating six weeks of radiation by administering one dose is good for women – especially those who live too far away or don’t have transportation to the hospital.

Hear more from Lu Rice about her radiation experience, learn why Reiland carries a rock in her pocket, and listen to stories of patients and survivors who refuse to let breast cancer define them at this link to a discussion on SDPB Radio.

Kealey Bultena grew up in South Dakota, where her grandparents took advantage of the state’s agriculture at nap time, tricking her into car rides to “go see cows.” Rarely did she stay awake long enough to see the livestock, but now she writes stories about the animals – and the legislature and education and much more. Kealey worked in television for four years while attending the University of South Dakota. She started interning with South Dakota Public Broadcasting in September 2010 and accepted a position with television in 2011. Now Kealey is the radio news producer stationed in Sioux Falls. As a multi-media journalist, Kealey prides herself on the diversity of the stories she tells and the impact her work has on people across the state. Kealey is always searching for new ideas. Let her know of a great story! Find her on Facebook and twitter (@KealeySDPB).