Merit Health Woman's Hospital

Merit Health Woman’s Hospital is the first hospital in Mississippi to offer single-dose intraoperative radiotherapy for qualifying early-stage breast cancer patients. This advanced treatment can completely replace the three- to six-week course of traditional external beam radiation by administering a targeted dose of radiation during the patient’s tumor removal surgery. By completing all necessary treatment in one day, breast cancer patients and healthcare staff alike can benefit from fewer office visits during the pandemic.

“We are proud to be the first in Mississippi to provide such an important treatment for women, particularly during the pandemic when exposure should be minimized. This leading edge, clinically-supported radiotherapy system will allow us to provide our patients with another treatment option in the fight against breast cancer,” said Heather Sistrunk, Chief Executive Officer at Merit Health Woman’s Hospital.

The procedure is called Targeted Intraoperative Radiotherapy, or TARGIT-IORT, which was investigated in a large, international study. Long-term study results published in BMJ last August demonstrated no significant difference in the five-year local recurrence rates or survival rates between this new procedure and traditional external beam radiation. In addition, deaths related to heart disease and other cancers were significantly reduced among women receiving the treatment.1

“Women with early-stage breast cancer who are eligible for the treatment achieve the same benefits of traditional radiation with fewer office visits and fewer side effects than traditional radiation. As a physician I am excited to offer this treatment to eligible early-stage breast cancer patients in our state,” said Phillip Ley, MD, FACS, surgical oncologist at Merit Health Woman’s Hospital.

The treatment may also lessen or even eliminate unnecessary travel during the pandemic. Recent studies show that coronavirus surges last spring and summer adversely affected patients’ willingness to comply with their post-surgical treatment regimens. A study published in Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in August found that the number of patients receiving breast cancer treatment fell 52% during the pandemic.2 A study published in November in BMJ demonstrated that deferring breast cancer treatment by as little as four weeks can increase mortality. 3

“As we are seeing another surge in COVID-19 cases impacting the region, this pioneering technology couldn’t be coming to Merit Health Woman’s Hospital at a better time,” continued Dr. Ley. “We can provide our patients with the same clinical benefits as external radiation without additional unnecessary exposure to COVID-19. This new technology also provides all the radiotherapy treatment that is required while allowing the doctor and patient to comply with local and state regulations that may classify some cancer treatments as elective or non-essential.”

Patients who meet the following criteria may be eligible for the new treatment:

· Age 45 or older

· Invasive ductal cancer of the breast

· Have breast cancer in only one part of the breast

· Have breast cancer treatable with lumpectomy

· Have a tumor that is 3 cm (1.5 inches) or smaller

· Don’t have any signs of cancer in the lymph nodes

· Have stage 1 or early stage 2 breast cancer

To learn more about Merit Health Woman’s Hospital’s introduction of intraoperative radiation therapy for breast cancer treatment, please visit

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