Only On 8: MammoSite

"I have a very busy life, I work full-time, I have three kids and life was very, very busy and that was just blew us all away," says Michelle Bessette of Webster. Bessette, age 47, was diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer in June 2007. Bessette chose a newer treatment on the market to target her cancer, MammoSite.  

"I had surgery on Monday and by Thursday I had the MammoSite inserted," says Bessette.   

"It's delivering intense radiation to the tumor bed instead of to the entire breast itself," says Dr. Meri Atanas, a radiation oncologist at the Lipson Cancer Center at Rochester General Hospital.   

The treatment is relatively new, approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration five years ago it was tested at Rochester General Hospital. In the early days of its approval, MammoSite was considered a controversial treatment because there was not enough evidence to show the treatment worked as well or better than traditionally radiation therapy. Since then, evidence on millions of women who’ve used it show it not only carries fewer side effects, it also cuts radiation therapy from weeks to days. As a result, MammoSite has become a popular treatment option for women.

"Just as the information gets out there, more and more women are using it," says Dr. Lori Medeiros, a breast surgeon at the Lipson Cancer Center.  

MammoSite is recommended for postmenopausal women age 45 and older, diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer with tumors less than two centimeters large. MammoSite has been used on women as young as 23, however, those procedures are done strictly on a case-by-case basis. The device itself is shaped like a small balloon attached to a thin tube. The device is inserted into a woman’s breast.  

"It's usually about a 30 to 45 minute procedure. The balloon is inserted sterily. We put a little bit of localized anesthetic, same thing as the dentist, less painful than the dentist," says Medeiros who frequently implants the device in women.  

Radiation is delivered through a machine. The radioactive pellet is sent in a very thin tube which is attached to the MammoSite device within the breast.  

"Literally to say that from the time you have surgery to the time that at least your radiation is complete, it's really a two week period of time,” says Atanas.  

The MammoSite procedure is a far cry from traditional radiation treatment which can last up to seven weeks. In Michele's case it was the perfect option for her busy life.

"It's done in five days and you walk out the door and back to your home, your family, your job and instead of that constant daily reminder of what you've been through."

For more information on MammoSite, call Rochester General Hospital: (585) 922-LINK. There are also websites which give detailed information as to the procedure, its risks, benefits and personal accounts. Visit:  or

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