Denver Hospital Uses New Technology to Battle Breast Cancer with One Day Treatments

Photo courtesy of Rose Medical Center on Facebook

In the spirit of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we at 303 Magazine are excited to spread the word that Denver is utilizing new technology in the battle against breast cancer. Denver’s Rose Medical Center is the first hospital in Colorado to introduce its patients to something called Intraoperative Radiation Therapy (IORT). This procedure brings radiation oncologists and surgical oncologists together in the operating room to provide one-day treatment of early-stage breast cancer. A successful IORT operation could potentially eliminate several burdensome weeks of traditional radiation therapy and other medical procedures. To learn more about IORT, we spoke with Dr. Barbara Schwartzberg, a breast surgeon affiliated with Rose Medical Center who has been in practice for over 25 years. She was able to brief us on the history of IORT.

Dr. Barbara Schwartzberg Photo provided by Larry Lazlo
Dr. Barbara Schwartzberg
Photo provided by Larry Lazlo

According to Dr. Schwartzberg, IORT was initially developed in 1988 at the University College London. “The procedure uses a targeted dose of radiation, which kills remaining cancerous cells while sparing surrounding healthy tissue, such as the heart, lung and ribs,” she explained. Rose Medical Center offers IORT with the Xoft® Axxent® Electronic Brachytherapy (eBx®) System®, which was cleared by the FDA in 2006. IORT is recommended for patients whose breast cancer is still in stage one or two. Rather than six to eight weeks of small radiation doses, this technology is able to more specifically target the cancerous cells with a concentrated does of radiation, eliminating the cancer in as quickly as eight minutes. IORT is available in more than 50 healthcare facilities around the world, and Rose Medical Center has so far treated more than 200 patients.

Many of my patients tell me that they appreciate the convenience of IORT,” Dr. Schwartzberg said. “One of my patients returned to work the day after receiving IORT — her employer was unaware that she even had been diagnosed with breast cancer because the procedure required so little recovery time and the physical and cosmetic side effects were minimal.” According to a survey of 40 IORT patients at Rose Medical Center, 95.7 percent of them reported being happy with their cosmetic outcome after being treated with IORT. 

If you’re wondering why you’re only just hearing about IORT, Rose Medical Center first started using it in November of 2011, but it has only just begun to attract attention in the United States. Is it legitimate? This treatment has been FDA approved and the recurrence rate is only 1 percent higher than that of traditional radiation treatment. Also, IORT was included as a top new lifesaving procedure on the Cleveland Clinic’s top ten medical innovations last year and included in Popular Science’s “Best of What’s New” list. Dr. Schwartzberg also claims that the patients she has treated with IORT maintained a lower level of stress and incurred less emotional trauma thanks to the relief of a quicker procedure.

Some women, such as those who live in more rural areas, those who are in the workforce, and those who are caretakers for their families, may find it difficult to finish a course of treatment that requires numerous visits,” Dr. Schwartzberg said. “Studies have found women who live farther away from treatment facilities are less likely to follow through with radiotherapy, causing some women to opt for unnecessary mastectomies to avoid having to travel great distances for daily treatments. IORT eliminates the need for multiple visits, which will hopefully encourage more women to complete the full course of treatment.”

For more information visit

Discover more from 303 Magazine

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading