The Gazette is partnering with title sponsor Penrose-St. Francis Breast Care Center and ribbon sponsor Peak Vista Community Health Centers to bring you inspiring stories of local breast cancer survivors and a behind-the-scenes look at the care process from physicians, surgeons, nurses and volunteers throughout October.
Radiation therapy might be one of the most misunderstood parts of the cancer treatment process.
“Our field of radiation therapy is ever-changing, and it’s exciting,” said Shelley Adams, RN, RT(T), manager of Radiation Therapy at Penrose Cancer Center. “But, there are still quite a few misconceptions out there. Many years ago, we saw much worse skin reactions than we do today, thanks to the advancements in technology that have really reduced the bad burns. We don’t see much of that anymore, it’s come a long way. I’ve been in the field for 12 years and have seen major advancements, especially here at Penrose.” Penrose Cancer Center is part of the Centura Health Cancer Network, delivering advanced, integrated cancer care across Colorado and western Kansas.
In 2007, Penrose introduced gated treatment, limiting radiation doses to normal, healthy tissue and reducing possibilities of radiation damaging a patient’s heart. “The only time the beam is on is when the lung is fully inflated and the heart is out of the way,” Adams said.
In 2002, Penrose became one of the first centers in the country to offer Accelerated Partial Breast Irradiation (RPBI): “Meaning, patients can choose to do a shorter treatment course with higher doses of radiation,” Adams said. “Instead of taking the traditional six weeks off, maybe you only have to take one week off, which makes a world of difference for working moms and people who live out of town.”
Penrose also started offering three-week course treatments in 2009. “Our physicians like to stay on the cutting edge of treatment so patients can get high quality treatment close to home,” Adams said. “In our busy society, it’s oftentimes hard to be away for six weeks, so it’s important we offer a variety of options for women to have choices in their treatment plans so they can get back to their lives outside of cancer.”
Adams also credits the variety of integrative therapy options offered to patients with helping them heal, from art therapy to easy chair yoga. “I’d say about 20-percent of my patients take advantage of the activities to help them heal as a whole person, mind, body and emotions,” she said. “And I do see a difference in these patients.”
At the end of the day, Adams knows her leadership also makes a difference for patients nearing the end of their cancer journeys during radiation therapy. “I makes sure to care for my staff well to ensure they can be there to care for the patients.”