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My Story

Barb | age 67
Teacher - Tutor
Staten Island, NY
15 years, 1 month since her MammoSite treatment.

It was the spring of 2004 when the radiologist greeted me with these words, “Don’t worry, we think it’s just a cyst but we need to do a biopsy to be sure.” During the procedure he commented that he felt that there was a small solid mass behind a cyst. Later I was informed that I had a small cancerous node encased within another node of healthy tissue. I was told that what I had was Ductal Carcinoma In Situ and I was very fortunate that it was caught at Stage 0. My experience is proof that early detection is the key to combating this dreaded disease, so go for your mammograms!

Three days later I was sitting in my surgeon’s office. He concurred that I was a very lucky lady to have caught my cancer so early. He told me that he would perform a lumpectomy and then after the surgery I would have to have radiation. The very sound of that word instills fear in me. I knew that radiation can break down healthy tissue and can cause burning, redness, and thickening. However, my surgeon explained that because my cancer was small and deep in my breast, he felt that I was a perfect candidate for a new internal radiation procedure called MammoSite. When he told me that the duration of this therapy would be only 5 days as opposed to 6 and a half weeks of standard radiation he really had my attention. He gave me the name of a radiation oncologist whom he highly recommended who was experienced in using MammoSite and was practicing in a hospital near my home. He encouraged me to set up an appointment with him to discuss my options and present to him any questions that I had.

When I met with Dr. Jonathan Beitler I was immediately put at ease by his casual demeanor and ready smile. He was generous with his time and explained in detail the differences between standard radiation therapy and MammoSite therapy to myself and my husband. I was so impressed that by choosing to have MammoSite, I could get on with my life after only 5 days of treatments. I would need to have a treatment each morning where a source of radiation would be inserted through a catheter and then 10 minutes later would be removed. Each day I would be required to return to the hospital about six hours after the first treatment for a total of 10 treatments altogether. Dr. Beitler explained that standard radiation treatment irradiates a large field around a cancer and exposes not only the healthy tissue surrounding it, but also the heart and lungs. MammoSite, because it is internal, could zero in on the site of where the tumor was, thus minimally affecting healthy tissue. Common sense was appealing to me that this more targeted approach was a much healthier choice.

After outlining the therapy to me, I was curious to know if there was a downside to MammoSite as it was sounding like an incredibly easy call to make. It was explained to me that a small incision would be made so that a catheter could be implanted in my breast for a week, and that there was a small risk of infection because of this. I would have the procedure done on a Friday and then come back the following Monday to begin my regimen of 10 treatments. I realized that if I were to have traditional radiation treatments, our family would have to forego scheduled vacation plans which included taking my son to college. Opting for MammoSite meant that there would be minimal impact on my quality of life.

After taking everything into consideration, it was obvious to me that I was blessed to be in the position of being able to choose to have MammoSite therapy. My decision is affirmed when I have my follow-up mammograms and the technicians comment on the difference between my breast tissue having had MammoSite, and the thickened breast tissue of those patients who have received external radiation. MammoSite may not be for everyone, but if given a choice it seems to me to be an alternative that needs to be considered and pursued.

The insertion of the catheter went in easily with surprisingly little discomfort. Once my treatments were underway I soon found out that I was the first person in Staten Island, NY to have MammoSite. I was treated like quite the celebrity and was uplifted by the enthusiasm for this innovative therapy by all of the technicians, nurses, and doctors who cared for me. I decided to take the week off from work and “treat” myself between the two treatments each day so I made plans with either my husband or my best friend to go to the movies, do some shopping, get a massage, or go out for a nice meal. It was such a positive experience for me, devoid of any stress, that I would recommend this option to any woman who fits the criteria.

This profile is solely the words of the person who received MammoSite Targeted Radiation Therapy to treat breast cancer. Note that this profile is specific to this particular person, and experiences will vary.