Radiotherapy can also be used if the cancer has already spread, in which case radiotherapy can prevent or alleviate symptoms caused by metastases, e.g. in the bones(palliative radiotherapy).
Radiotherapy is carried out as an outpatient treatment, is non-invasive (i.e. does not require anesthesia) and can therefore be easily integrated into everyday private and professional life. Fractionated treatment is usually necessary for breast cancer. This means that the total dose is divided into several daily fractions and the treatment is usually carried out over a period of 3-4 weeks. Close and personal support is a matter of course for us.
Palliative radiotherapy to alleviate symptoms or treat metastases, on the other hand, can be significantly shorter depending on the situation and may only last for 1-10 sessions.
The Department of Radiation Oncology at the USZ uses only the most modern techniques for precise irradiation of the breast or thoracic wall with few side effects. Standard techniques in our clinic include intensity-modulated radiotherapy (IMRT) and the technical advancement VMAT (volumetric modulated arc therapy), “fast” high-energy electrons, high-dose-rate (HDR) brachytherapy, image-guided adjustment and radiation therapy (IGRT), as well as treatment using the breath-hold technique (DIBH) for left-sided breast cancer.
You will be looked after by experts in the treatment of breast cancer.
For many patients, we are already offering the treatment of tomorrow: in clinical trials, we are continuously working to improve the treatment of breast cancer in order to make it even more effective and tolerable. To the overview of currently open studies.
Radiotherapy for breast cancer always takes place after surgery and is referred to as postoperative or adjuvant radiotherapy. Depending on the extent of the breast cancer, chemotherapy may also be necessary. In this case, chemotherapy would be given before any necessary radiotherapy. Anti-hormonal therapy, on the other hand, can also be carried out at the same time as radiotherapy.
By irradiating the entire breast and saturating the dose locally in the tumor bed, we significantly reduce the risk of a recurrence in the breast. This also optimizes the chances of recovery. If lymph nodes are affected, these risk regions can also be irradiated. Radiotherapy is usually tolerated without any problems and only takes a few minutes.
In order to protect the surrounding tissue in the best possible way, we use state-of-the-art technology at our clinic. In the case of left-sided breast cancer, for example, the radiation can be adapted to the patient’s breathing and radiation is delivered in deep inspiration. We call this technique deep inspiration breath hold or DIBH.
Metastases in breast cancer, e.g. in the brain or bones
Breast cancer is an aggressive type of cancer that often forms metastases during the course of the disease: this is called metastasis. Common sites of metastasis are the lung, adrenal gland, bones or liver. Radiotherapy is a highly effective method with few side effects to prevent or treat symptoms caused by metastases. This is usually done in combination with chemotherapy, immunotherapy or other targeted therapy. The smaller the metastases are and the earlier they are irradiated, the better the results. Today, metastases in the body can be treated in a focused manner in just a few effective radiation sessions.
For tumor foci in the abdominal area, e.g. liver or upper abdomen, we carry out body stereotactic radiotherapy (SBRT) on our MRI hybrid accelerator. State-of-the-art radiation technology is combined with MRI images. The radiation is thus carried out under MRI monitoring of the tumor, so that the highest precision is combined with the best imaging. Our clinic was the first in Switzerland to introduce this technology back in 2019. We are still the only clinic in German-speaking Switzerland to offer the highest level of expertise in this field.
Today, brain metastases are treated at our center in most patients by means of a single high-dose radiation treatment: this is called radiosurgery.
Metastases at other locations in the body can now also be treated in a focused manner in just a few effective radiation sessions.
Metastatic breast cancer is a clinical and scientific focus of our clinic. We pass on our knowledge in a large number of international courses and congresses.
State-of-the-art equipment and experienced medical physicists and MTRAs contribute to treatment of optimum quality and safety.
At the same time, we work closely with our colleagues in medical oncology to guarantee “one-stop” treatment. We also consult with our colleagues in palliative medicine at an early stage.
In clinical trials, we are continuously trying to improve the treatment of breast cancer in order to make it even more effective and tolerable. To the overview of currently open studies.