Expert nurse paves the way with in-demand treatment option; Century-old brachytherapy rejuvenated


ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA As science and technology has advanced through the years, so has the practice of brachytherapy. This century-old form of radiation brings the radioactive source closer to the tumor, sparing surrounding organs and decreasing side effects. Cynthia Briola, BS, RN, OCN, radiation oncology staff nurse at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, Pa., leads fellow oncology nurses at the 29th annual Oncology Nursing Society (ONS) Congress through the ever-changing world of technology and into the future with high-dose rate brachytherapy.

"The future of cancer treatment is geared at a more individualized approach," said Briola. "High-dose rate brachytherapy allows us to target the tumor directly by selecting the most appropriate and effective treatment for the individual patient. The treatment process for low-dose rate brachytherapy can be long and very uncomfortable for patients. High-dose rate brachytherapy gives them another choice."

Low- or high- dose rate brachytherapy can be used to improve local control of the tumor, treat inoperable or recurrent tumors, treat areas at high risk for recurrence, preserve the function of vital organs, provide comfort in recurrent disease, and minimize radiation damage to the surrounding tissues.

With high-dose rate brachytherapy, treatment time is shorter, more comfortable, and most often performed on an outpatient basis. In most cases the entire procedure is performed in a few hours over the course of a couple days cutting the treatment time dramatically. For example, the delivery of the radiation for cervical cancer patients generally lasts 15 to 20 minutes depending on the strength of the source and must be given 72 hours after the last dose. Patients may receive a combination of external beam therapy and chemotherapy in conjunction with high-dose rate brachytherapy.

Other benefits of high-dose rate brachytherapy include increased safety due to less radiation exposure, decreased side effects and a reduced likelihood of additional surgical procedures.

"Patients seek treatments based on cure, survival and quality of life," explained Briola. "Oncology nurses must be able to educate patients on what to expect during treatment and to help the patient manage potential side effects, radiation safety issues, and self-care. When a patient knows all the facts they can make an informed choice best designed to suit their lifestyle and be apart of the treatment process."

Briola is among the staff of Fox Chase nurses who, in 2000, were recognized for excellence with the Magnet Award. At Fox Chase, nurses not only specialize in oncology, but further concentrate within a particular field allowing them to provide the most up-to-date treatment.

Others presenters include Jeannette Lawall RN, MA OCN, of St. Joseph's in Burbank, Ca. and Chris Flynn, RN BSN, of the William Beaumont Medical Center.

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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