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GammaPod – the first radiation therapy system dedicated specifically to treat early stage breast cancer – was invented and developed over many years by scientists and physicians at the University of Maryland. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cleared GammaPod in 2017, and it is now used to treat patients at the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center.
GammaPod is a non-invasive way to treat breast cancer diagnosed at stages (0, 1 or 2 at early stages). It uses an approach called stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT), which involves higher doses of radiation delivered to a more focused area in fewer treatment sessions. SBRT has long been used to treat tumors of the brain, liver and lung. Studies show that for the right patients, SBRT is just as effective as more traditional approaches that require several weeks of daily radiation treatments and may be just as effective as surgery. The result is that patients spend less time at the hospital. They may even experience fewer side effects from radiation therapy.
How It Works
GammaPod’s design allows patients to be treated more comfortably in the prone position. Gravity helps the breast fall away from the chest. This means that a patient’s vital organs – the heart and lungs – are farther away from the treatment area.
The breast is fitted with a cup that prevents it from moving during treatment. Radiation beams coming from thousands of different angles work together to target a very precise treatment area. The total time the radiation beams are on with each treatment session ranges from five to 40 minutes. Patients receive the same effective dose of radiation they would have with the conventional approach. However, the radiation is delivered in fewer treatment sessions at a higher dose per session.
GammaPod video from Xcision
The Benefits of GammaPod
For patients who are good candidates, there are many potential benefits to GammaPod. The most obvious is that having fewer treatment sessions is more convenient. The typical course of whole breast radiation therapy after surgery for early stage breast cancer ranges from 15 to up to 35 daily treatment sessions. With GammaPod, only one to five treatments are needed, even fewer than other forms of partial breast radiation therapy that require at least ten treatment sessions spread over five days.
GammaPod is a form of partial breast radiation which is an appropriate treatment for many women with early stage cancers. Unlike many other forms of partial breast radiation though, it is non-invasive and does not require daily treatments.
Who Can Be Treated with GammaPod
While choosing GammaPod for treatment is a decision between a patient and her physicians, some general guidelines apply. GammaPod is a form of accelerated partial breast irradiation (APBI), which is beneficial for particular patients with early stage breast cancers. GammaPod focuses radiation on only the highest risk areas affected by cancer and might prevent cancer recurrence just as well as a longer course of radiation to the entire breast. Appropriate candidates for GammaPod treatment include but are not limited to:
- Early stage breast cancers (Stage 0, 1 or 2)
- Patients age (50 or older)
- Women eligible for lumpectomy
For more information about GammaPod, or to speak with a radiation oncologist to see if you are a candidate, call 410-328-6080.