Intraoperative radiotherapy (IORT) is where the patient is given a single dose of radiotherapy during their operation for breast cancer. This negates the need for a 3-5 week course of radiotherapy treatment post operation for suitable patients.
The length of the operation is not extended. In HHFT, during the operation, samples are taken of sentinel nodes and sent to the laboratory for analysis. The surgeon waits for the results before continuing with the operation. The IORT treatment can be administered whilst waiting for those results.
This is cutting edge technology; HHFT will be one of only two district hospitals in the UK able to offer intra-operative radiotherapy and intra-operative sentinel node analysis (OSNA) simultaneously; effectively this is one-stop surgery and radiotherapy, as a day case procedure.
Two additional factors are driving HHFT’s lead in the South of England in delivering IORT. One is that there is the potential to be involved in the IORT training academy. Second is the legal case of Montgomerie versus Lanarkshire which has set a new standard for patient consent – this means that patients must be informed of alternatives to whole breast radiotherapy outside of HHFT. If we are not able to offer this procedure, patients may opt to go elsewhere.