When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I prepared myself for the worst case scenario. With a history of ovarian cancer, I imagined a bilateral mastectomy, chemotherapy and 5-7 weeks of radiation . . . but I was wrong.
What I discovered were stunning developments in medicine as effective but dramatically less challenging than what I believed lay ahead for me.
My circumstances made me a candidate for a new High Dose Radiation treatment called Brachytherapy, a 5-day outpatient treatment proved to be as effective as beam radiation. Combined with a lumpectomy, this plan offered me the lowest recurrence rate possible for my case, roughly 4%.
A standard mammogram had discovered a single, stage II tumor of the most common type, Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. When the cancer was surgically removed, a wisk-like device was inserted into the cavity. The result was a medieval-looking arrangement that made sleep impossible but, twice a day, delivered radioactive seeds to the affected area.
Pink ribbons have underwritten breast cancer research and the result is improvements in survival rates across the board:
Stage I: 100%
Stage IIA: 92%
Stage IIB: 81%
Stage IIIA: 67%
Stage IIIB: 54%
Stage IV: 20%
And, to further the case for mammograms, statistics prove that early detection is our best bet for survival.
I loved being done with treatment in a week instead of two months. I appreciated options that avoided unnecessary damage to my healthy tissue. And, I'm thankful that more aggresive surgery was unnecessary.
But mostly, I'm grateful to be alive.
Note: Brachytherapy is now used to treat other cancers, including prostate, cervix, head and neck, ovary, brain, gallbladder, uterus and vagina.