An IU Health Arnett doctor and cancer patient walk us through the cancer radiation process

This Breast Cancer Awareness Tuesday, an IU Health Arnett doctor and cancer patient, now survivor, explain the process of going through radiation.

Posted: Oct 22, 2019 6:37 PM

LAFAYETTE, Ind, (WLFI) — As we enter the end of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, News 18 is looking into what happens at the end of the cancer recovery process. For many women, it means undergoing radiation therapy.

The cancer treatment process looks different for every patient but it often occurs in three sequences.

“Surgery first, if the woman needs chemotherapy, she'll get chemotherapy next typically and then after that, we'll give radiation treatment,” said Radiation Oncologist Dr. Estabrook. “That order can be changed, there are exceptions to that but that's a very common sequencing.”

This sequence was the case for Michelle Kyser. She was diagnosed with stage-three invasive ductal carcinoma breast cancer in 2017. Her doctors say she made a good decision in deciding to remove both breasts. And now more than a year and a half cancer-free, she believes her choice in undergoing radiation was also a good choice.

“Most of the statistics were that it would give me about 10% reduced risk of recurrence and 1 in 10 was by far enough that yeah, I wanted it,” said Kyser.

Radiation is a therapy that kills cancer cells using X-Ray beams. Kyser said her symptoms were tenderness near the cancer area and feelings of fatigue. Both feelings, she was able to work through.

“It's a really quick treatment, you come in, the staff is wonderful,” said Kyser. “You go in, they get you lined up and, you know, it's about three to five minutes and you're back out the door and getting changed.”

Radiation Oncologist Doctor Neil Estabrook debunks many of the misconceptions he hears from patients.

“People believe they're going to be radioactive, that they can't be around their family members or children and things like and because this is an X-Ray, the radiation is only here when it's turned on,” said Estabrook. “The side effects are very localized so if a woman had breast cancer, for instance, she's getting radiation to her breast, she's not going to lose the hair on top of her head because of radiation treatment.”

Estabrook said tiredness and tenderness after radiation are normal and usually goes away over time.

“It can be quite fatiguing, it's real and it's usually temporary,” said Estabrook. “The nearby skin or any nearby organs that might be near the tumor that’s being treated, those tissues are all susceptible to being irritated or inflamed by radiation and the vast majority of the time those are temporary side effects.”

IU Health Arnett is using this month of awareness to remind women to get their mammograms. Doctors recommend that women with an average risk for breast cancer get a mammogram every year starting at age 40. Average risk means no family history of breast cancer or genetic abnormalities.

To schedule a same-day mammogram, call 765-448-8100 or learn more by visiting the IU Health Arnett website.

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