This year, 200,000 women will hear the horrible news that they have breast cancer. Once diagnosed, the first step is usually a lumpectomy to remove the cancer, often followed by weeks of radiation, to kill cancer cells left behind. But now, a precision treatment once reserved for other cancers is saving valuable time for breast cancer patients: Brachytherapy. And it's offered right here in the Tri-State.
In the Baratiak household, music is in their blood.
And It was music that helped Nina Baratiak make it through some tough days.
"I had a tumor in my left breast. My brain just shut down, like what? Really?" said Nina.
"Traditionally, cancer patients undergo external beam radiation therapy to treat the whole breast. It's 15 minutes, five days a week for six weeks. It's potentially damaging to nearby skin and tissues," said Dr. Rakesh Patel.
Brachytherapy is more targeted, delivering radiation from the inside out, 10 minutes a day for just five days.
"It really hones in to that area and preserves some of that healthy tissue," said Dr. Patel.
At the doctor's office, a radiation seed is fed through this device into the area where the tumor was removed allowing doctors to precisely program how much radiation is given and when. While it takes a lot less time, studies show the recurrence risk for many women treated with brachytherapy is the same as those who go through whole breast radiation.
Nina is almost a year out from surgery and is cancer-free, enjoying the newest member of the family. They chose her name to be Zoe, which means life. Nina says she felt that was a sure sign of sweet things to come.
Brachytherapy is not for all women diagnosed with breast cancer. It works best on women with early stage breast cancer.
The Christ Hospital and the Barrett Cancer Center offer brachytherapy.