Balloon radiotherapy for breast cancer, also known as intracavitary brachytherapy, can deliver a focused dose of radiation to part of the breast. The standard since the 1980s has been whole breast radiation therapy given over a period of a few weeks. With the balloon placed by the surgeon, radiation can be delivered twice a day for ten treatments to make treatment more focused and convenient.
This is one form of accelerated partial breast irradiation, or APBI. This technique is investigational but promising enough that it's reasonable to consider as an alternative to whole breast radiation therapy. Depending upon how conservative you are regarding medical evidence, it may be best done only on a clinical trial or there are guidelines for treatment off protocol in selected circumstances, which I have answered on TalkAboutHealth before:http://bit.ly/mZ2Fdg
I offer this treatment to selected women but tend to favor standard whole breast radiation. There's a fair amount of hype about APBI but it's still not proven to be equally effective. I'm not sure if this is the NY Times article you meant, but I'll discuss this: http://nyti.ms/wVW62K
Recent data presented at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium showed that women receiving APBI were "about twice as likely to have a mastectomy in the following five years" after treatment compared to women receiving whole breast radiation. Sounds terrible, right? I call foul on the NY Times:
1. The failure rate almost doubled; 4% vs. 2.2%. Had the NY Times presented it based upon success rate, 96% vs 97.8%, it's not news.
2. It's a retrospective, broad stroke study. There can be all sorts of bias and no ability to account for quality control in how the treatment was done for APBI.
3. Presentations at academic meetings are interesting, but it's not finalized, peer-reviewed research until it's published.
I'm conservative regarding use of APBI. Don't believe the positive hype, but I don't put too much stock in the NY Times article. I hope that answers your question!