One woman in eight will develop breast cancer in her lifetime. With utilization of regular mammography and physical examinations, most women are diagnosed at an early stage and therefore have a good prognosis.
Working with excellent surgeons, radiologists and medical oncologists, we treat breast cancer in a multimodality team approach. Our physicians carefully review each case and outline in detail the woman's individualized treatment plan. Many women will need radiation as part of their overall treatment. Radiation consists of high-energy x-rays given to the breast or chest area following a lumpectomy or mastectomy.
As part of the initial appointment with the radiation oncologist, a history and physical is obtained and the potential benefit of irradiation is determined. If treatment is recommended, the procedure will be explained in detail. A second appointment is scheduled for a simulation. This is where multiple measurements are taken, including a CT scan, to visualize the heart, lung, and other structures in the chest area. With the latest technology at hand, we use either 3-D conformal or intensity-modulated radiation therapy. The treatment is selected based on the needs of the particular patient.
A typical course of irradiation will last about six weeks. Treatments take 10-15 minutes and are given Monday through Friday. A few select patients are candidates for partial breast irradiation. Those appointments typically take 30 minutes, are scheduled twice a day, and extend over a one week period of time.
Once everything is prepared, the routine radiation appointments are brief. Patients are able to drive themselves as there are no significant side effects accompanying each treatment. Treatments are delivered utilizing a linear accelerator where patients lie on a table in a specially constructed room. There is no pain associated with the treatments. Patients are monitored continuously by the therapist outside the treatment room using both visual and audio monitors.
There can be side effects with treatment. These will depend on the course of treatment selected and the overall treatment plan for each particular patient. These are discussed in detail at the consultation appointment.
A diagnosis of breast cancer can be difficult for patients and their families. At Saint Joseph Radiation Oncology we have a social worker to help patients and their loved ones. Common issues that arise include transportation and housing. There is also a nutritionist on staff who can offer helpful advice. The goal is to help patients feel well during their treatment. In fact, many women are able to continue their usual routines with only minor disturbances in their daily schedule.