Once diagnosed, the first step is usually a lumpectomy to remove it, but weeks of radiation may be needed to kill cancer cells left behind. A precision treatment once reserved for other cancers is now changing that for breast cancer patients.
They start early in the Baratiak household. From the youngest to the oldest, music is in their blood. It was music that helped Nina Baratiak, a breast cancer survivor, make it through some tough days.
"I had a tumor in my left breast. My brain just shut down, like what? Really?" she told Action News. After a lumpectomy—Nina chose to try a new type of radiation to kill any remaining cancer cells.
Rakesh Patel, MD, past chairman of the American Brachytherapy Society and Director of breast cancer services at Western radiation oncology, told Action News, "Brachytherapy is a much more precise treatment. It delivers radiation right to the area at risk, right after surgery."
Traditionally, cancer patients undergo external beam radiation therapy to treat the whole breast. It's 15 minutes, five days a week for six weeks. It's potentially damaging to nearby skin and tissues.
Brachytherapy is more targeted-- delivering radiation from the inside out ten minutes a day for just five days. "It really hones in to that area and preserves some of that healthy tissue," Dr. Patel said.
At the doctor's office, a radiation seed is fed through this device into the area where the tumor was removed, allowing doctors to precisely program how much radiation is given and when. While it takes a lot less time, studies show that the recurrence risk for many women treated with brachytherapy is the same as those who go through whole breast radiation.
Nina is almost a year out from surgery and is cancer free, enjoying the newest member of the family. "They chose her name Zoë and that means life, and we just felt that was a real sign to us," Nina said.
Brachytherapy is not for all women diagnosed with breast cancer. It works best on women with early stage breast cancer.
If you would like more information, please contact:
Rakesh Patel, MD
Western Radiation Oncology
(925) 734-8130 ext 140