Intraoperative radiotherapy, or IORT, is supposed to be a one-day procedure, meant to minimize radiation and treatment time.
Helen Tiplady has been a nurse for 56 years, and over the course of her career, she has sent many women to get mammograms only to inform them later that they have breast cancer.
In March of this year, the same thing happened to her.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would get that report on me,” Tiplady said.
Five months after she was first diagnosed, Tiplady, 74, only has one reminder of her cancer.
“I have a cute little scar,” Tiplady said. “It looks like a frowny face unfortunately. I wish it was a smiley face.”
Tiplady was one of the first 16 patients treated with a new type of cancer treatment technology offered at Halifax Health Center for Oncology. The Intrabeam radiotherapy system, or IORT, is a “one and done” type of treatment, taking place immediately after a lumpectomy surgery. The Intrabeam applicator is inserted where the tumor was removed, administering radiation to the inside of the breast.
IORT helps to minimize the treatment time for radiation therapy, as well as reduce damage to surrounding healthy tissue and organs. It is a same day treatment, and patients may go home afterward. Also, for the patients that might still need treatment after the procedure, IORT can help reduce the amount of weeks of chemotherapy needed.
“We can take people who are working, like Helen, and keep their downtime to a minimum,” said Dr. Michael Fabian, a surgeon at Halifax Health. “So a lot of younger that are getting this diagnosis are able to continue to work and have minimum downtime.”
Tiplady was Fabian’s first patient using IORT.
However, not everyone is eligible for the intraoperative radiotherapy treatment. Only those in the beginning stages of breast cancer or those with small enough tumors will be able to be treated for their cancer in a single day.
Dr. Alvaro Alvarez-Farinetti, radiation oncologist at Halifax Health, said the 16 patients treated so far have both been local and come from out of Florida, with one flying in from the Cayman Islands to receive IORT.
“The manufacturer tells us we’re the only people who have this particular equipment available in Volusia and Flagler County,” said Dr. Ronald Krochak, another radiation oncologist at Halifax Health.
Halifax Health plans to treat 8 more patients during the month of August.
Tiplady went back to work in Dr. John White's OB-GYN in Daytona Beach just six days after her surgery.
“But they tried to kill me at work so I took two more days off and I worked every day ever since,” Tiplady said.
She said the treatment was a “piece of cake,” and she’s happy she did not have to go through weeks of treatment.
“This is done and over with and I don’t even have to think about it anymore,” Tiplady said. “It’s like I don’t even remember I had it until I look down and see my little frowny-face scar.”