May 172013
 

A post on breastcancer.org caught my attention, and I responded to it, but wanted to share my thought process here as well. I’m aware that my decision to have radiation treatment will be the most controversial part of my story for some readers, and the least controversial part of my story for other readers. So, for all readers:

I do not regret my decision to have radiation treatment. But I took control of my treatment, and I took steps to repair the damage afterward.

After an inconclusive needle biopsy (which I will never do again), an inconclusive MRI, an inconclusive excisional biopsy, and a lumpectomy that finally determined I had a non-aggressive mucinous carcinoma (not as bad as it sounds), I did a ton of research before meeting with the radiation oncologist. I determined that I would do radiation ONLY in the prone position 1. I also wanted partial breast radiation. She convinced me to do whole breast radiation, but we did it in the prone position. My heart and lungs were not in the radiation field. I insisted that the sentinel node biopsy site be removed from the field, because the sentinel nodes were negative. We argued, until I stated I was out unless the site was out. Then they agreed that this made logical sense. I also had them use 3D-CRT instead of IMRT to reduce the risk of a second malignancy from distant scatter 2.

Because I knew I was not going to take tamoxifen 3, I waited a minimum amount of time between surgery and radiation — 4 weeks 4. I had 16 treatments, for a total dose of about 42 Gray. A long-term study showed that this particular regimen was actually better for my particular tumor characteristics and my age 5. Also, this left me with sufficient headroom that if this ever happens again, I can have another lumpectomy and partial-breast radiation.

I used Boiron calendula lotion during radiation, which worked great to prevent any awful skin issues, and had some effects that proved to be temporary. I had a light sunburn that took a long time to fade. And a few months after treatment, my breast became harder. But around then, I got on my vitamin, mineral and hormone balancing program with a well-known doctor-ally. My results have been amazing, and my life has been amazing, since then. I have repaired DNA damage, and my breast became soft and normal-colored again. The dark spots that my dermatologist said would only worsen over time, have disappeared.

So, I found that I COULD recover from radiation damage. I didn’t know that when I made the choice to have treatment, but I made the decisions I felt were best with the information I had at hand, I was strategic and took control of my health decisions, and I do not regret it.

Would I do it again? I have no idea. With my health and wellness program, which gives me meaningful data every 3 months so I can see when and if I need to course-correct, I’m trying to put myself in a position where I will never have to make that decision.

Notes:

  1. Lying Prone for Radiation Best for Breast Tx, MedPage, 2012.
  2. Radiation-induced second cancers: the impact of 3D-CRT and IMRT, International Journal of Radiation Oncology, 2002.
  3. Caveat: Tamoxifen was later deemed “optional but preferred” for me by three different oncologists. I declined it.
  4. Delaying Post-Surgical Radiation Increases Risk of Breast Cancer Recurrence in Older Women, Study Finds, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute via ScienceDaily, 2010.
  5. Long-Term Results of Hypofractionated Radiation Therapy for Breast Cancer, The New England Journal of Medicine, 2010.