Special Radiation Therapy for Breast Cancer Protects Heart & Lungs
For 43-year-old Jacqueline Naas traveling two hours round trip to receive state-of-the-art prone breast radiation therapy at the University of Chicago Comprehensive Cancer Center at Silver Cross Hospital was worth every minute.
Since this specialized radiation therapy was not available near Naas’ home in Ogelsby, she had to decide if she could handle the time consuming commute to get her 33 treatments.
“My husband, Roger, and I agreed that if I can live at least 20 more years, than it’s worth our time to drive an hour each way five days a week, in order to have prone therapy because this method protects my heart and lungs from any radiation exposure,” said Naas.
The Naas’ feel they made the right choice to seek treatment at the University of Chicago Comprehensive Cancer Center at Silver Cross Hospital.
“Everyone has been awesome,” exclaims Jacqueline. “Dr. Anne McCall patiently answered all of our questions and gave us a packet of information that has been such a helpful resource. And the radiation therapists were all very positive and thoughtful. They had the softest touch when they would move me and were always so concerned that I wasn’t in any pain.”
Naas had no family history of breast cancer. Two years prior to being diagnosed with breast cancer, she had cystic fibroids removed from her breast. All seemed fine until a tumor was found during her mammogram. In December 2014, she had surgery to remove the cancerous tumor. During this time, three additional tumors were discovered underneath her nipple and were removed as well. After having four chemotherapy treatments, her care plan called for radiation therapy.
Since Jacqueline was a possible candidate for prone therapy, her physician suggested she go see Dr. McCall at the University of Chicago Comprehensive Cancer Center at Silver Cross. Dr. McCall has experience with the state-of-the-art prone breast radiation technique that is offered on the Silver Cross Hospital campus, as well as at the University of Chicago’s Hyde Park campus.
“Prone breast radiation treatment is a wonderful technique for the right patient,” said Dr. McCall, M.D., Medical Director for Radiation Oncology for the University of Chicago Comprehensive Cancer Center at Silver Cross Hospital. “And Jacqueline’s clinical situation made it appropriate to treat her using the prone radiation technique.”
Dr. McCall adds, “Prone therapy is especially beneficial for women with larger breasts and a tumor on the left side that hasn’t spread to the lymph nodes. The dose of radiation is uniform with less skin reaction. There is minimal exposure to the heart and lungs. This lowers the risk of complications, such as future heart disease and lung damage.”
How Does Prone Breast Radiation Treatment Work?
Prone breast radiation therapy is a unique approach to treating breast cancer. Radiation is administered on a specially-designed table with a breast board to help the woman lie more comfortably in the prone position, on her stomach, with the breast hanging down from the body for radiation therapy.
“As a patient you really have to be motivated to lay on your stomach for treatments, but I really feel Jacqueline’s determination to get well contributed to her ability to do so,” said Dr. McCall.
Benefits to Prone Treatment
There are many benefits to receiving radiation in the prone position in addition to minimizing radiation exposure to the surrounding organs and tissues. The radiation dose in the prone position is the same as when the patient lies flat on her back for radiation treatment.
“By using the prone technique, the breast falls away from the chest-wall making it easier for radiation therapists to target the tumor more precisely with the radiation,” said Kimberly De Nardo, Lead Radiation Therapist for the University of Chicago Comprehensive Cancer Center at Silver Cross.
“The goal with every treatment plan is to protect the healthy tissue from radiation,” Kimberly said. “As with every patient, the planning phase was critical in creating Jacqueline’s personal prone treatment plan.”
During the planning phase, Radiation Therapists performed a CT scan which is used by the physics team to delineate the target and organs at risk such as the heart and lungs. “Then the physics team and Dr. McCall develop the best treatment plan,” Kimberly said. “By using the most advanced TrueBeam new-generation linear accelerator system, we were able to deliver precisely targeted radiation therapy to provide the best results for Jacqueline.”
Kimberly brought over 14 years of experience working with cancer patients at the University of Chicago’s Hyde Park campus to her new role on the Silver Cross campus.
“Our job is to make every patient’s treatment and experience easier,” said De Nardo. “Whether we hold their hand or simply listen to their concerns, we are there to offer them support. Patients shouldn’t decide that it’s easier to give up instead of fighting with all the advanced cancer care treatment options available, like those offered here at the University of Chicago Comprehensive Cancer Center at Silver Cross.”
Comforting Advice to Others
“I would highly recommend the University of Chicago Comprehensive Cancer Center at Silver Cross to cancer patients,” said Naas. “Overall, I had an excellent experience with everyone.”
“By coming to the University of Chicago Comprehensive Cancer Center at Silver Cross, patients have access to the same advanced technology that is offered at the University of Chicago Medicine at Hyde Park in Chicago,” said Dr. McCall. “We are fortunate to have highly trained and experienced radiation therapists working at Silver Cross who truly make the patients’ treatment so successful.”
To see if Prone Therapy is right for you, talk with your oncologist or call 1-855-UCM-1400 to see a specialist with the University of Chicago Medicine Comprehensive Cancer Center at Silver Cross Hospital.