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Radiation device can  treat more women  following surgerySANTA ROSA -- Redwood Regional Medical Group has a new tool to fight early-stage breast cancer, a device that's been shown to minimize the time and amount of radiation necessary to follow tumor removal.

SAVI (Strut-Adjusted Volume Implant) technology has only been around for a year and a half, and it'll be new to the North Bay.

The device is an applicator that delivers radiation from within the breast, targeting the tissue where cancer may reappear and protecting healthy breast tissue.

[caption id="attachment_17450" align="alignright" width="194" caption="The SAVI applicator delivers radiation from within the breast, protecting healthy breast tissue."][/caption]

"The design of SAVI is quite ingenious in the way it resolves problematic issues presented by other breast brachytherapy (within-the-tissue radiation) methods," said Dr. Michael Berry, a surgeon at the Breast Clinic of Memphis, where the device is being used.

"It's easy to place and comfortable for patients. The device's expandable array of multiple catheters allows us to customize the radiation dose to the patent's need and anatomy. This creates a safer procedure for women with certain body types or tumor locations."

Brachytherapy follows a lumpectomy, removal of the smallest possible section of the infected breast. Balloon brachytherapy, itself a fairly new, 7-year -old technology, inserts a balloon into the cavity left after surgery and delivers radiation to it through a catheter.

But many women, because of small breasts, or cavities close to the skin, cannot be treated with balloon brachytherapy.

The SAVI device's versatility means that many more women can take advantage of the convenience of breast brachytherapy.

"You can lower the dose to healthy tissue such as the heart ribs and lungs and then concentrate the dose on the area where it's really needed," said. radiation oncologist Dr. Michael Farmer of the Memphis Professional Radiological Corporation.

According to Dr. Cindy Scharfen of Redwood Regional, the cancer recurrence rate among women treated with $7,500 SAVI device is extremely low.

"It represents a significant improvement of brachytherapy. Not only is the device able to treat a much larger number of women because of its ability to contour to the cavity, but it also shortens the radiation time from six weeks to only five days. That's a wonderful advance for women," she said.

The SAVI applicator is made by Cianna Medical, a device maker in Aliso Viejo in Southern California.

Redwood Regional won't be recruiting patients for the treatment until it's ready to deploy the device, most likely within the month.

"Right now we're waiting for the state to approve our moving of the nuclatron," said Dr. Scharfen.

The nuclatron, which SAVI will be attached to, generates radiation, and is regulated by state and federal agencies.

Redwood Regional Medical Group is the largest privately owned physician organization in the region. It consists of 10 medical campuses in Mendocino, Lake, Napa, Sonoma and Marin counties with 45 physicians and more than 300 care providers. Its services include radiology, oncology, surgery, and research.

CORRECTION, Jan. 18, 2010: The price of a SAVI breast cancer treatment device is $7,500. Incorrect information appeared in “Redwood Regional gets SAVI” [p. 15, Jan. 11].