A Quick Solution for Early-Stage Cancer
September 02, 2008
A quick solution for early-stage cancer
Nurse says proactive health saved her life
By Megan Quinn write the author
July 24, 2008
Kelly Bartsch knows the value of preventative medicine.
Kelly Bartsch was diagnosed with breast cancer in January. She was treated at Exempla Lutheran Medical Center where she works as a registered nurse. Bartsch participated in MammoSite, a targeted radiation therapy that was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2002.
Bartsch, a registered nurse at Exempla Lutheran Medical Center, was used to making sure her patients got regular physicals and routine cancer screenings. Bartsch practiced what she preached — and one such routine mammogram provided early evidence of breast cancer.
"I didn't know anything about breast cancer, I just knew to be proactive. I feel that mammogram saved my life," she said.
Because the lump was small and there was no evidence that the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes, Bartsch qualified for a relatively new treatment that would aim the bulk of the radiation at the area around the tumor instead of her entire body. She would receive treatments twice a day for a few minutes each. But the best part was that radiation treatment would take only five days, and Bartsch wouldn't even have to stay in the hospital.
"I just knew I didn't want chemo," she said. "And with this, it all happens really quick."
Wheat Ridge News
The healing touch of art
Jeffco to lose a daily drip
Wheat Ridge aims for culture
e-mail this article link to a friend
letter to the editor about this article
print this article
Dr. Barry Gardner, Bartsch's doctor, said the oncology department at Lutheran has treated more than 200 patients in the past four years with this radiation method. But the treatment isn't for everyone. Because the radiation targets only a specific area of the body where a single tumor is found, patients must have early-stage cancer and no evidence that the cancer has spread.
"We have a lot of low-risk patient doing this," Gardner said.
Bartsch was treated using Mammosite, a radiation method that uses a water-filled "balloon" with a small catheter to deliver radiation inside the breast.
After the tumor is removed, the balloon is placed inside the cavity where the tumor was once located. It stays inside the breast until the end of the five-day treatment and is then removed.
"The balloon makes Mammosite elegant" because it conforms to the irregular shape of the tumor cavity and evenly exposes the area to radiation, Gardner said.
Bartsch said she feels lucky to have caught the cancer early enough to be eligible for the short treatment. She had surgery six months ago.
"Five days versus seven weeks. You really can't beat that," she said.
Even though the treatment went smoothly, Bartsch said she is still recovering from the surgery and the emotional stress that comes with illness. Some apprehension and fatigue still lingers.
"It's a lot to deal with at one time, and it's kind of hard still," she said. "I have to believe it's gone."
Although Bartsch works at the hospital and has a medical background, cancer was an unknown territory full of questions.
Bartsch said she had "tremendous" support from the oncology department and her co-workers at the hospital.
"You have to trust a lot of people when you get a diagnosis," she said.
Bartsch has now gone back to work full-time and is planning a vacation to Lake Tahoe with her sons Daniel and Adam. She stays fit by swimming in the pool in her backyard. She hopes more women will be able to benefit from the treatment that allowed her to move on with raising her family.
"Awareness is the big thing with any topic of cancer," she said.
For more information about Mammosite, a form of early-stage cancer treatment that uses radiation beams inside the body, visit www.mammosite.com.