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Breast cancer patient tries new 1-day treatment

Published: Apr. 5, 2016 at 3:41 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 6, 2016 at 8:56 PM EDT
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Nancy Stickler (Source: Daniel Paxton, WAVE 3 News)
Nancy Stickler (Source: Daniel Paxton, WAVE 3 News)
Delores Hilbert (Source: Daniel Paxton, WAVE 3 News)
Delores Hilbert (Source: Daniel Paxton, WAVE 3 News)
Dr, Anthony Dragun (Source: Daniel Paxton, WAVE 3 News)
Dr, Anthony Dragun (Source: Daniel Paxton, WAVE 3 News)
The Xoft Axxent Electronic Brachytherapy System which provides the Intraoperative Radiation...
The Xoft Axxent Electronic Brachytherapy System which provides the Intraoperative Radiation Therapy (IORT). (Source: Daniel Paxton, WAVE 3 News)

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Two sisters were diagnosed with breast cancer, but they each were offered different treatment options.

Delores Hilbert, 76, was devastated after her breast cancer diagnosis last fall. There were no obvious lumps, she said. For the past several years, she followed through with routine mammograms. Not only did her age put her in a probable category to develop cancer; her family history did, too.

Hilbert's diagnosis came 20 years after her younger sister, Nancy Stickler, developed breast cancer. In 1995, Stickler found a lump before her doctor confirmed it was cancer.

"When he did, I started crying and both my ears filled up with tears," Stickler said. "He squeezed my hand and then he left."

After the diagnosis Stickler shared the news with her family, including her sister.

"It was just devastating," Hilbert said. "I was afraid she was going to die."
 
Hilbert stood by her sister during surgery and 10 months of recovery.

"I just accepted the fact that the Lord would do what was necessary to take care of her," Hilbert said.

Stickler described the severe side effects from her treatment, including fatigue, sickness, scars and hair loss.

Nearly 10 months later, Stickler's doctors were confident the cancer had subsided. With relief, Hilbert praised God for healing her sister. Little did she know, her sister's experience was preparing her to fight the same battle.

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"They called me and said there was a spot that didn't look right," Hilbert said, reliving the terror she felt when her sister was diagnosed. This time, however, she had to share the dreadful news.

"She called me and told me and I was very upset," Stickler said. "I was scared because of these tremors, diabetes and she's older now."

At 76, Hilbert was left with a decision to make. The James Graham Brown Cancer Center suggested a new procedure that guaranteed Hilbert that her recovery experience would be vastly different than her sister's.

Stickler described the severe side effects from her treatment, including fatigue, sickness, scars and hair loss.

"We're looking at her and saying, number one, this is a very small tumor and it's in a nice location," said Dr. Anthony E. Dragun of the Brown Cancer Center. "The breast and radiation therapy, as people get older, tends to magnify some of the traditional side effect."

The treatment is called IORT. It is Kentucky's first one-day breast cancer treatment that offers multiple patient benefits. The benefits exceed that of traditional radiation, according to Dragun. To determine if a patient is a candidate for this treatment, Dragun said the cancer team has to make sure the cancer hasn't spread to other parts of the body.

"We also have to make sure the cancer within the breast is a certain distance away from the skin inside the chest," Dragun said. In essence, post-menopausal  women are ideal candidates, he added.

Hilbert was the first in the region to experience this treatment on February 8. "It has been real good," Hilbert said. "It was naturally sore where they cut it out but I've never had any reaction from it, no sickness, nothing." To date, Hilbert's one day treatment has been successful. This is experience is what Dragun expects for all of his patients.

Traditional radiation is very time consuming, anywhere from three to six weeks, according to Dragun. "There is a lot the breast or underlying coordinates that may be exposed to radiation and it isn't as targeted or as focused as this treatment." Traditional radiation side effects include painful rashes, blisters and fatigue. "The psychological effect of having to walk yourself into a cancer center every day shouldn't be under estimated either," Dragun said. "This treatment eliminates that and allowed women to get on with the rest of their lives a lot sooner," he added.

The procedure is performed in the operating room moments after the removal of the tumor. The surgeon and radiation oncologists work together to place the radiation right where it needs to be. The treatment typically adds 12 to 15 minutes to the initial surgery.

"You're treating the patient from the inside out, that is opposed to traditional radiation where you're trying to treat the areas that need radiation from the outside in," Dragun said.

The benefits are expanded as patients are relieved of the burden of repetitive treatments. With this comes a cheaper costs for most insurance companies when compared to traditional radiation. Typically, the cost is based on the number of treatments. This procedure is considered one treatment, in addition to the surgery.

Intraoperative Radiation Therapy (IORT) is provided using the James Graham Brown Cancer Center's Xoft Axxent Electronic Brachytherapy System, which is FDA cleared, CE marked and also licensed in Canada for treatment.

"A growing body of favorable clinical data supports the use of IORT in candidates meeting specific selection criteria. iCAD, the maker of Xoft, is currently conducting one of the targets IORT clinical studies to date using the Xoft System, which compares Xoft IORT to traditional external beam radiation therapy. To date, more than 2,000 patients have been treated with Xoft IORT," according to the cancer center.

For more information about IORT at the James Graham Brown Cancer Center, click here or or call 502-562-4673.

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