Anita’s Story: Treating Breast Cancer with CyberKnife Technology

The American Cancer Society reports that there will be almost a quarter of a million women diagnosed with breast cancer in the United States this year and over 11,000 of those cases will be in Pennsylvania. Even though breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer in U.S. women, survivorship rates continue to steadily increase. Thanks to advances in early detection and treatment, more and more women diagnosed with breast cancer are alive today.

Anita is one of those women. Anita was diagnosed with breast cancer in early 2016 and today the 75-year-old Delaware County, Pennsylvania resident is happy and healthy.

Anita’s journey with breast cancer started at her local hospital. While at the hospital for a visit with her pulmonologist, Anita saw a sign for mammograms. Thinking that a mammogram sounded like a good idea, and she had some time, Anita got a mammogram while she waited for her appointment to begin.

“I usually go by my instinct,” said Anita. “I saw the sign, and something told me to get the mammogram then. I had time since I was waiting, so I went for it.”

A few days later, Anita received a notififcaion in the mail that she needed to have another magmmogram done and an ultrasound performed. Her mammogram came back abnormal and Anita was informed that she had stage 1 tumor in her left breast.

Anita was not too surprised to hear about her diagnosis, as she has a history of cancer in her family, and even lost her husband to the disease.

“I have seen so much cancer in my family,” she said. “I knew I had to take care of myself. I was going to do whatever I needed to do to get better and I was not going to take no from anyone.”

After Anita had surgery to remove the tumor, it was recommended to her to follow-up with radiation therapy. She made an appointment at Philadelphia CyberKnife and met with Dr. Rachelle Lanciano, one of the radiation oncologists on staff.

While at the appointment, Anita learned about how Philadelphia CyberKnife, in cooperation with the department of Radiation Medicine at Georgetown University Hospital, was starting a study trial to evaluate accelerated partial breast irradiation delivered with the CyberKnife® Robotic Radiosurgery System in early stage breast cancer in five treatment sessions.

Radiation therapy is often used to treat breast cancer after a tumor is removed. In the past, radiation has been administered to a patient’s entire breast over an approximate seven week period of time to increase the likelihood that any cancer cells remaining in the lumpectomy area are destroyed. Since healthy cells, as well as cancer cells, can be affected by radiation, partial breast irradiation, a newer technique, minimizes exposure to the rest of the breast, skin, ribs, lungs and heart. Partial breast irradiation administers radiation to only the immediate area surrounding the original tumor, an area where breast cancer is most likely to recur.

The purpose of the study is to review the records of 200 patients with Stage 0 or Stage 1 breast cancer who receive accelerated partial breast irradiation using radiosurgery. Specifically, we will assess effectiveness of the treatment in preventing a recurrence of the breast cancer, infection rates, and cosmetic results.

Anita was very interested in the study and wanted to be enrolled, but was concerned that her prior medical history may prevent her from participating. She was extremely pleased when Dr. Lanciano not only informed her that she had been accepted into the study, but that she would be the first patient from Philadelphia CyberKnife to take part in it.

On March 7, 2016, Anita received her first of five CyberKnife treatments. The session went smoothly and was over before Anita even knew it.

“The treatment process was extremely easy,” she said. “I was comfortable, did not feel any pain, and did not experience any negative side effects afterwards. The staff was great and everyone was kind, caring, and pleasant.”

Today, Anita feels wonderful. She currently has no evidence of breast cancer and she has nothing but positive things to say and remember about her time at Philadelphia CyberKnife. Throughout her entire treatment process, Anita kept a journal/scrapbook documenting her CyberKnife experience and she happily shares it while she tells her story.

“I feel like one of the lucky ones to receive CyberKnife treatment,” said Anita. “I want to thank Dr. Lanciano and the staff at Philadelphia CyberKnife for taking care of me and involving me in their research. I’m so proud I participated in the study and if this helps just one person, I’ll feel like I really accomplished something.”