The standard treatment for early breast cancer comprises wide local excision, sentinel lymph node biopsy or axillary lymph node dissection, adjuvant medical treatment and radiotherapy to the whole breast. Many studies suggest that local control plays a crucial role in overall survival. The local recurrence rate is estimated to be 1% per year and varies between 4 and 7% after 5 years and up to 10 to 20% in the long-term follow up. On the basis of low local recurrence rates the concept of whole breast irradiation comes up for discussion, and partial breast irradiation (PBI) is increasingly under consideration. Intraoperative radiotherapy (IORT) is referred to as the delivery of a single high dose of irradiation directly to the tumor bed (confined target) during surgery. PBI (limited field radiation therapy, accelerated partial breast irradiation APBI) is the irradiation exclusively confined to a breast volume, the tumor surrounding tissue (tumor bed) either during surgery or after surgery without whole breast irradiation. Various methods and techniques for IORT or PBI are under investigation. The advantage of a very short radiation time or the integration of the complete radiation treatment into the surgical procedure convinces at a first glance. The promising short-term results of those studies must not fail to mention that local recurrence rates could probably increase and furthermore give rise to distant metastases and a reduction in overall survival. The combination of IORT in boost modality and whole breast irradiation has the ability to reduce local recurrence rates. The EBCTCG overview approves that differences in local treatment that substantially affect local recurrence rates would avoid about one breast cancer death over the next 15 years for every four local recurrences avoided, and should reduce 15-year overall mortality.
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