Two women, every 15 minutes, will die of breast cancer. Due to new drugs and new treatments, however, many more women will beat the disease.
There is a new breakthrough that has women leaving the hospital in one day, surgery, radiation and all.
Joanne Duffy is a part of a survivors group that helped her face her breast cancer. Duffy's treatment, however, was different than the other women. She is one of the first to have a lumpectomy and all of her radiation in one surgery.
"If a woman has a lumpectomy for breast cancer, the site where the cancer will most likely come back is the site where it was before," said Dr. Stephen Grobmyer, surgical oncologist at The Cleveland Clinic Breast Center.
That's why immediately following the tumor removal, surgeons at The Cleveland Clinic are using intra-operative radiation therapy to specifically target the area where the tumor was removed.
"The radiation only travels about a centimeter, so it really has no chance of damaging normal tissue," Grobmyer explained.
Traditionally, patients would start monthly chemotherapy infusions for a year after surgery, and then follow that by daily radiation treatments for three to five weeks.
The intra-operative treatment cuts out all the radiation treatments for many patients. Whether chemo is needed depends on the size and type of tumor.
"It’s allowing us to tailor the treatment specifically to the patient and their type of breast cancer," Grobmyer said.
Intra-operative therapy wiped out Duffy's cancer, and now she's focusing on helping other women.
"I feel like a woman who’s 71, but I feel like I’m 31," Duffy said.
Because healthy tissue is not damaged, recovery time is quicker. In fact, some patients can go home the same day of surgery and they don’t have to come back.
Since this is still being studied long term, doctors are using it for patients with early stage breast cancer that are age 60 or older.