Program helping to give breast cancer patients a fighting chance

Brenda Morris
Brenda Morris
Dr. Anthony Dragun
Dr. Anthony Dragun
Dr. Anthony Dragun looked over x-rays.
Dr. Anthony Dragun looked over x-rays.

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - About a third of Kentucky women aren't getting the treatment care they need when fighting breast cancer. A new treatment protocol at the Brown Cancer Center is stretching dollars to give these under-served women a fighting chance.

Radiation Oncologist, Dr. Anthony Dragun is leading the way in the United States with a new treatment protocol that's beating cancer by decreasing radiation treatment sessions.

"To have an intervention that's going to impact cost and access was really what we wanted to do," Dr. Dragun said.

Radiation is the standard of care following an early stage breast cancer lumpectomy. Without it the patient's risk of a recurrence is 40 percent or higher.

Researching data in the state over a 10 year period, Dr. Dragun found that about a third of women weren't getting that critical follow up treatment and for surprising reason - 90 percent of the women had health insurance.

"Insurance doesn't necessarily mean access if gas if four dollars a gallon and you live 40 miles away from the nearest cancer center.  You gotta drive back and forth every day for six weeks" Dr. Dragun explained.

The access is also impacted by difficulties arranging child care and in this economy fearing a job loss if taking off too many days from work.

So Dr. Dragun introduced a protocol already practiced in the UK, Europe and Canada with great success. It's giving stronger treatments one time a week instead of the traditional 5 days a week.

Dr. Dragun points to improving technology allowing this to happen. With more direct, customized radiation therapy there are fewer side effects with even stronger doses.

Brenda Morris is part of a study of the protocol at Brown Cancer Center, now over two years out with 45 patients.

"I didn't have any vomiting, any nausea, I didn't have any peeling" Brenda said.

And longer studies, according to Dragun, "Show no greater risk of recurrence."

The patient also saves with fewer co-pays or out of pocket expenses and the insurance companies save too. "So any way to reduce the cost of therapy across the board is for everybody a good thing."

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