Newest Technology To Help Save Lives

By WEEK Reporter

May 5, 2011 Updated May 10, 2011 at 10:37 AM CDT

As we countdown to Saturday's Komen Peoria Race for the Cure, we want to show you one of the latest treatments that's saving lives.

Gina Morss introduces you to a LaSalle County woman who is alive today thanks in part to efforts of people who run and walk in the race.

Margo Forney didn't feel a lump. In fact, she felt just fine. Still, the then 54 year old didn't hesitate to get her annual mammogram.

"I had faithfully been going every year for my mammogram and this particular year they asked me to come back in six months and I did...they didn't like the looks of it and wanted to do a biopsy and I said let's do it right now...and got the word." said Margo.

It was early stage breast cancer. That was a year and a half ago. Thanks to medical advancements made possible through fundraising from events like Race for the Cure, the mother of two had some options.

How do your dollars make a difference? Research for treatments like accelerated partial breast irradiation a quicker more targeted form of treatment.

A treatment well suited for patients like Margo who traveled more than an hour from Peru for the special radiation at Methodist Medical Center in Peoria.
She said, "With my job, with working it was going to be so much more convenient and it really was. It was a piece of cake."

Dr. Roby Lal was her radiation oncologist. He said, "It's done twice a day and it's only for a week compared to 5-7 weeks of conventional external beem radiation. So, it's a real time saver for patients."

Here's how it works: a balloon is inserted into the lumpectomy site and filled with saline. A catheter that's connected to the balloon is also attached to a machine that houses the radiation source. A thin wire with a tiny radioactive seed on the end moves up the catheter under precise computer control into the center of the balloon.

The seed irradiates the tumor site and the area immediately surrounding the cavity where tumors are most likely to recur. After the patient receives the prescribed dose of radiation over a 5 to 10 minute period, the seed is removed from the balloon.

"And once my 5 days were done, he pulled the balloon out, put a few little bandaids on it and I was done." said Margo.

Dr. Lal, "At first, I was skeptical because we have long-term data with conventional external beam radiation. So, I really wanted to see the data proof that this was going to be as effective and was really surprised that it's equivalent, so far at least, at five years of using this new technology."

Margo followed up the balloon radiation with herceptin treatments. That targeted breast cancer treatment is something she could do at home in Peru every three weeks. She finished her last treatment in March...and is now celebrating being cancer free.

The balloon radiation costs the same as the traditional treatment and is covered by most insurers. It is only recommended for patients over age 45 who are diagnosed with a tumor less than three centimeters in size. Other restrictions apply.

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