New technology in radiation therapy is now offered at the Avera Sacred Heart Cancer Center and it's giving some breast cancer patients a great option. Nancy Naeve Brown spoke to the very first patient who got electronic brachytherapy in Yankton.
The folks at the Avera Sacred Heart Cancer Center in Yankton are excited offer electronic brachytherapy radiation therapy for early stage breast cancer patients who's cancer hasn't spread to the lymph nodes. It's a new technology which holds the potential to change the face of high dose brachytherapy.
Avera Sacred Heart Radiation Oncologist Dr. Michael Peterson says, "Because it's electronic brachytherapy we actually use a miniaturized x-ray tube that's so small you could put on top of a finger. The advantage to doing it this way is it gives us a lot of control over the depth with tissue we irradiate but its safe."
Surgeon Dr. Mary Milroy with Yankton Medical Clinic says, "We find when a person has a lumpectomy, even with lean margins, there is a risk for local recurrence. It is important during surgery is to do a very good lumpectomy making sure the edges are clear and then at the end of lumpectomy a balloon is placed into the cavity. It has a center channel so a radiation source can be placed down in the center of the balloon. In fact, once in place we can inflate that this center channel is where radiation source goes. That can deliver 360 degree dose of radiation to tissue at risk."
Once the treatments are done Dr. Peterson deflates the balloon, pulls out the catheter and the hole that's left is only the size of the tip of my finger and doesn't require stitches.
Carol Groseth of Yankton found out she had breast cancer in mid-October but was a candidate for electronic brachytherapy. She was the very first patient at Avera Sacred Heart to get this type of radiation therapy. She spends the winters where it's warm so I spoke with her on the phone while she was in Las Vegas.
Carol says, "It was not painful at all. I just felt like I was in the best hands. Dr. Peterson's nurses are angels."
The real advantage of brachytherapy in general is the treatment time. Patients come in twice a day for 15 minute therapy sessions each, for 5 consecutive days. Traditional radiation takes 6 to 7 weeks.
Carol says, "It was a blessing. It really was. It hardly interfered with your life at all."
And the staff at the Avera Sacred Heart Cancer Center is all about living during cancer treatment and long after.
Radiation Oncologists say another nice thing about electronic brachytherapy is the energy from the X-ray tube is so low it's actually safe for someone to be in the room with the patient.