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What is intraoperative radiation therapy (IORT)?

Intraoperative radiation therapy (IORT) involves the application of a single large dose of radiation, using low-energy x-rays or electrons, at the time of surgery.

Intraoperative radiation has also been used to treat a variety of tumors after surgery, including gastrointestinal cancers, sarcomas and most recently breast cancer. The results for breast cancer have been highly successful. With at least five years of follow-up for breast cancer patients with early stage breast cancer treated with IORT, results show local control rates of roughly 95 to 98 percent.

Patients who are treated with intraoperative radiation may be able to avoid five to six weeks of postoperative radiation.

Our approach

At Northwell Health Cancer Institute, intraoperative radiation is one of many advanced radiation therapies used to treat malignant tumors. By utilizing this technique, our physicians can deliver high-energy beams of radiation to a targeted area while reducing the time involved with postoperative radiation.

We offer breast cancer patients INTRABEAM® intraoperative radiation therapy. It is administered following tumor removal at the time of lumpectomy. The patient receives a high dose of therapeutic radiation immediately and precisely, delivered exactly where the cancer was removed. This precise delivery minimizes radiation exposure to healthy tissue.

Intraoperative radiation therapy is provided in a caring and professional environment by staff who are dedicated to making each patient visit as informative and stress-free as possible. This begins with an in-depth conversation describing the treatment, including what to expect, possible side effects and goals. The personalized treatment also includes careful consideration of current health, family history, age and patient preferences.

All radiation therapies, including IMRT, are administered using evidence-based medicine. A multidisciplinary team of doctors, including radiologists, surgeons, pathologists, medical oncologists and radiology oncologists, collaborates on treatment plans to ensure that every aspect of treatment is precisely coordinated for the best possible outcome. This includes ongoing peer review and chart rounds.

Because convenience is a priority, we offer multiple locations for radiation therapy to enable you to obtain treatment near where you live or work.

Research at Northwell

Advances in radiation oncology are continuously happening at Northwell Cancer Institute. With innovations in radiation therapy technology and techniques, we continue to improve outcomes. Through our alliance with leading research organization Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, we participate in investigator-initiated trials to offer the most leading-edge therapies to patients.

Northwell Health Cancer Institute is recognized for its commitment to providing pioneering treatment for cancer patients. The ongoing focus on improving cancer treatments has contributed to significant advancements that are improving the quality of lives and increasing the number of cancer survivors.

Learn more about clinical trials and research happening at Northwell Health Cancer Institute.

What to expect

Prior to your combined surgery and radiation therapy, you will be asked to provide a complete medical history and may have to undergo a complete physical examination to ensure you are in good health. Blood tests and other diagnostic tests may be performed. It is important for you to notify your healthcare provider about any sensitivities or allergies to medication, latex, tape, contrast dyes, iodine or anesthetic agents.

Your attending radiation oncologist, who will be treating you with IMRT, will review all treatment options and discuss the risks specific to your treatment.

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Possible side effects

With intraoperative radiation therapy, the side effects of the radiation will be similar as to those of other radiation treatments. Some patients have no side effects at all. However, when side effects do occur, they are typically related to the specific area that are being treated. Side effects include:

  • Fatigue
  • Hair loss
  • Mouth problems or difficulty swallowing
  • Digestion problems
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Soreness in the treatment area
  • Urinary difficulties

Most side effects usually go away after treatment ends. However, you may feel very tired for six to four weeks after your last treatment. Talk to your doctor about ways to treat potential side effects.

Support groups

Cancer is challenging, but you don’t have to go it alone. At Northwell Health Cancer Institute, a wide range of support groups are available to help you cope with diagnosis, treatment and post-treatment issues.

Learn more about support groups.

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