How IORT works

How IORT works

What is IORT?

IORT stands for Intra-Operative RadioTherapy

After a cancer has been removed from the breast, IORT allows your specialist to deliver a focused dose of radiotherapy directly into your breast, at the site where the tumour had been.

This reduces the risk of the cancer returning in the breast.

There are a number of IORT techniques, but the TARGIT team uses the Intrabeam® device (Carl Zeiss), as this method has been used worldwide to treat over 20,000 patients for the past 16 years.

IORT avoids the potential damage to the skin, heart and lungs from traditional radiotherapy.

You do not feel any effects from the radiotherapy and there are no additional scars on your breast.

How is it given?

diagram-iortIORT is given during your surgery, while you remain asleep, under general anaesthetic. It adds about 30 minutes to the operation, and allows your specialist to deliver a focused dose of radiotherapy into the space where the breast cancer had been.
This means that the radiotherapy is accurately targeted within the breast.

Step One – Your surgeon removes the cancer from the breast, which leaves a small space

Step Two – A ball-shaped radiation applicator is placed precisely within the breast cavity, at the site of the tumour

Step Three – A focused dose of radiotherapy is given into the breast, avoiding damage to the skin, heart and lungs

Step Four – The applicator is removed and the skin closed

Is it Effective?

TARGIT IORT has been extensively tested in clinical trials over the past 15 years. The TARGIT-A trial, included 3451 patients treated in 33 hospitals in UK, Europe, USA and Australia and this trial compared IORT with traditional radiotherapy.

  • Compared with traditional radiotherapy, TARGIT IORT has only minimal side effects
  • When given at the time of surgery the five-year survival rates are similar (93.9% TARGIT IORT versus 92.9% traditional radiotherapy)
  • Certain tumour types (hormone positive) are more suitable than others

Key Benefits

It takes less time: TARGIT IORT is given during your surgery rather than undertaking a three or four week course of traditional radiotherapy

Precise radiotherapy: The radiotherapy is given into the breast exactly where the cancer had been, ensuring that it is accurately delivered

Protects healthy tissue and organs: There is reduced toxicity or damage to the skin, heart or lungs

Avoids delay: Radiotherapy does not need to be delayed until after chemotherapy, or until the wound has healed (6 weeks)

Flexible for your needs: TARGIT IORT can be supplemented with whole breast radiotherapy if it is thought necessary later on

Key Concerns

Possible need for further radiotherapy: About 15-20% of patients may need to receive traditional radiotherapy in addition to TARGIT IORT if it is felt necessary after detailed examination of the tumour

Some uncertainty about the results: The safety of TARGIT IORT is well established, but not all patients’ follow-up data beyond five years is available yet. It is possible that the risk of disease returning may be 1% higher than after traditional radiotherapy.
However, there is a lower mortality (approximately 1%) with TARGIT IORT compared with standard radiotherapy treatments.

Can I opt for IORT?

  • In February 2017 NICE gave the provisional approval for the use of TARGIT IORT in the treatment women with early breast cancer.
  • The funding of this treatment from NHS England is still being sought and should be in place by Summer 2017.
    For each NHS patient with breast cancer, the treatment with TARGIT IORT costs about £500 less than traditional radiotherapy techniques.
  • TARGIT IORT has full approval for selected private or insured patients in the UK by medical insurance companies.

It is important that you have the opportunity to research and read about TARGIT IORT using reliable, accurate information.

Click here for a downloadable patient information leaflet that has been produced by the TARGIT IORT specialists. It is the approved information leaflet provided to all patients who are due to receive IORT in the UK.

“Travelling for miles and miles every day for up to four weeks to receive radiotherapy is a massive ordeal. There are not many people who can just take it in their stride.
I’m so pleased that I did not have to endure that strain.”

Mrs LA – The first patient treated in Swindon