SAVI: A New Way to Treat Early-Stage Breast Cancer


New device may reduce time needed for radiation

Published: Wednesday, November 09, 2011, 9:44 AM Updated: Wednesday, November 09, 2011, 9:48 AM
Staten Island Advance
SAVI.jpg SAVI® (Strut-Adjusted Volume Implant) device
Tips from Staten Island University Hospital

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. - ALL SHORES - A new type of radiation therapy for early-stage breast cancer is reducing treatment time while sparing healthy tissue.

When a breast cancer patient undergoes a lumpectomy, the procedure is often followed by radiation therapy than can take an average of five weeks. But breast cancer patient Martha Caruana finished her follow-up treatments in only five days.

That's because she underwent partial breast radiation at Staten Island University Hospital (SIUH) using the SAVI (Strut-Adjusted Volume Implant) device. SIUH is the first hospital in New York state to be recognized as a Center of Excellence for the treatment.

Ms. Caruana had a lumpectomy in March. Because of the nature of her condition, she was a good candidate for the SAVI treatment. Her cancer was detected at an early stage and confined to a small area.

"I was told that if I had to have any kind of cancer, this was the best type to have," said the 66-year-old.

The SAVI device is a slim bundle of soft and flexible catheters. A breast surgeon makes a small incision in a patient's breast and places the device in the lumpectomy cavity.

Once inside, the catheters are expanded to conform to the lumpectomy site. Each catheter individually radiates the breast.

"The reason to use a multi-catheter device is that we can control the dose of radiation for each of the catheters, so the catheters that are closest to the skin can get less radiation," explained Dr. Cynara Coomer, chief of breast surgery at SIUH and director of the hospital's Comprehensive Breast Center.

"The catheters that are closest to the breast tissue can get more radiation. So, the tissue that really needs to be radiated can be radiated with the highest dose and that means less exposure to the skin, the chest wall, heart and lungs," she said.

The SAVI device stays in place throughout the week-long treatments. A portion of the end of each catheter remains outside the patient's breast and is secured with dressing and a sports bra.

Ms. Caruana's radiation therapy was done twice a day at 8 in the morning and again at 2 in the afternoon. For each session, the hospital's treatment team individually hooked up each catheter to the radiation source. Each treatment took between 6 to 10 minutes.

"During the course of the week I was able to do everything. I was able to drive myself back and forth for treatments," said Ms. Caruana. "I felt fine. I wasn't sick. I just did everything I normally did."

For women who may be anxious about the SAVI treatment, Ms. Caruana stresses that there is nothing to fear or be nervous about.

"I would definitely recommend it to anyone who could be a candidate for it," she said.

Call the Comprehensive Breast Center at 718-226-8800 for more information.

This column is provided as a community service by Staten Island University Hospital. It was written by Diane O'Donnell, a member of the hospital's public relations department.

© 2011 SILive.com. All rights reserved.

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