Many women require radiation treatment after a lumpectomy. Traditional “whole breast irradiation” delivers radiation to the entire breast and requires six to seven weeks of daily treatment. “Partial breast irradiation” or “breast brachytherapy” is a technique for delivering internally targeted radiation. Breast brachytherapy delivers radiation to the breast tissue surrounding the lumpectomy cavity rather than to the entire breast.
The Contura™ is a small balloon-based device implanted into the breast to treat the “rind” of tissue surrounding the cavity left by lumpectomy surgery. After being inserted, the balloon is inflated and filled with saline. Next, vacuum is used to help the balloon fit closely within the lumpectomy cavity, which is often irregularly shaped.
Then, a radiation seed is sent through five separate “lumens” or channels inside the balloon, allowing the radiation dose to reach the targeted area. Unlike traditional radiation, Contura is administered twice a day for only five days.
How Contura is different
In the past, balloon brachytherapy was available with only a single channel for delivery of the radiation seed. Some patients were excluded from this type of treatment because the location of the tumor relative to their breast size did not allow the radiation seed to be placed in a way that minimized radiation to the skin, chest wall or ribs. Contura is different because it uses five separate channels to place the radiation seed.
In addition, Contura can be used in some patients who had been excluded from balloon brachytherapy because of the irregular shape of their lumpectomy sites and fluid buildup at the sites. Contura addresses this problem by using vacuum to help the balloon adhere closely to the lumpectomy site, so the targeted tissue can receive the prescribed dose of radiation.
Is Contura painful?
Most women feel little or no discomfort during insertion of the catheter, during treatment, or during removal of the catheter.
What are the side effects of Contura?
Mild side effects that generally last for a short period of time include redness, bruising and mild breast pain. Hair loss is not typically a side effect of radiation therapy.
Contura treatment process
- In the doctor’s office, your physician will implant an un-inflated Contura™ balloon inside the lumpectomy cavity. This occurs a few days to a few weeks following the lumpectomy procedure.
- Once inside the lumpectomy cavity, the balloon is inflated with saline solution until it fits snugly within the cavity. It will remain inflated inside the breast during the five-day treatment.
- The balloon is connected to a flexible catheter or tube which is outside the breast. Gauze padding is placed around the catheter and taped down so that you can move around freely between treatments.
- After the Contura balloon is placed, an image is taken to verify the position of the balloon within the breast. The placement of the radiation seed is determined to maximize the treatment course.
- During treatment, the portion of the balloon catheter that is outside of the breast is connected to a computer-controlled machine.
- Based upon the treatment plan that was developed by your radiation oncologist, the machine will automatically transfer a radiation seed from inside the machine through tubes and into the balloon catheter. Once therapy is complete, the seed is removed and the machine is disconnected from the balloon, after which you can return to normal activities.
- You'll need to visit the radiation oncologist twice a day for the five-day course of treatment. Each treatment takes approximately 30 minutes from set-up to completion.
- After the five-day course of treatment, the Contura balloon is deflated inside the breast and gently removed.
- The incision is then closed with a bandage.
- Most women will feel little or no discomfort either during insertion or removal.
Learn more about Contura on the SenoRx web site.