If you know someone who had breast cancer 15 or 20 years ago, the treatments likely looked very different than they do today. Today, many women can face breast cancer without fear that the cure might be worse than the disease.
In June of 2009, Cas Pearce’s annual mammogram revealed a cancerous tumor. Despite the bad news, she knew that expert treatment was available and was confident that all would turn out well. “I wasn’t even upset when they said it was cancer,” admits Cas. “I knew my doctors at Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital would take care of me, and they certainly did.”
Like all breast cancer patients at Mercy Fitzgerald, Cas, now 73, was treated by a multidisciplinary team of doctors, including a medical oncologist, a surgeon and a radiation oncologist. Together with the patient, the team planned the best course of treatment.
To shrink her tumor before surgical removal, Cas received chemotherapy from Rene Rubin, MD, medical oncologist at Mercy Fitzgerald. “Chemotherapy treatments for breast cancer are much improved,” emphasizes Dr. Rubin. “Patients don’t get sick or nauseated. They can eat and do whatever they want. It’s much different than what many people remember about chemotherapy.”
The chemotherapy shrunk Cas’ tumor enough for surgical removal. Cas then had a standard round of seven weeks of radiation therapy with UshaBabaria, MD, radiation oncologist at Mercy Fitzgerald. “Usually, the treatments are very easily tolerated, as in Cas’ case,” explains Dr. Babaria.“Most importantly, the cure rates are excellent.”
"I had no trouble with my radiation or chemo at all, other than temporarily losing my hair, which is normal,” states Cas.
What’s New at Mercy
Mercy Fitzgerald offers the latest and best breast cancer treatments available, including shorter radiation therapies. “The newest research confirms that certain patients can have the same results from radiation treatments that are more intense but last only three to four weeks,” explains Dr. Babaria. “We also offer brachytherapy radiation for early-stage breast cancer, which minimizes the dose of radiation to the surrounding normal tissue. A single therapeutic dose can be delivered in seconds. Treatment time is reduced to a week and side effects are minimal.”
Similar advances have been made with chemotherapy treatments. “Chemo for breast cancer doesn’t take over your life anymore,” says Dr. Rubin.
It has been reduced to merely a nuisance. So, it’s important not to fear an annual mammogram. It’s the best tool we have. It doesn’t cause cancer and it doesn’t hurt that much. But mammograms do prevent people from dying of breast cancer.
A Full Life
Cas is involved in a cancer survivor group, raising funds and awareness for breast cancer. She’s able to fully enjoy her retirement and visits with 12 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
The care at Mercy Fitzgerald is the best care that I have ever received,” asserts Cas. “The staff and doctors are all very nice and supportive, and I had no problems. I’ve been very blessed.”
Mercy Fitzgerald provides expert, personalized cancer care. Call us at 1.877.GO MERCY or visit mercyhealth.org/services/cancer-care.