The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

October 10, 2013

Breast Cancer Awareness: Finding treatment

Part 2 of our Breast Cancer Awareness series.

By Samantha Pidde
Herald Staff Writer

CLINTON — Once a person is diagnosed with breast cancer, her next concern is getting the appropriate treatment. This can include a mastectomy or lumpectomy, radiation and possible chemotherapy.

Clinton health professionals say that fortunately, patients can receive practically all breast cancer treatments within the community.

“Any treatment that a breast cancer patient might need, can be given here in Clinton,” Beth Wirth, an oncology-certified nurse at Mercy Medical Center’s Radiation Oncology Center, said. “They would not receive treatment in any other way at another facility.”

Wirth and Dr. Mark Dion, assistant professor at the University of Iowa and the medical director of the Mercy Radiation Oncology Center, agree that traveling for treatment can be a hardship. Radiation treatments typically last 15 minutes. Dion said that by utilizing local treatment centers, patients can get heir treatments quickly without disrupting their daily lives.

“You can still work. Ninety percent of women who are working when we treat them, keep working the whole time,” Dion said.

After a woman has either a lumpectomy or a full mastectomy, she is evaluated by Dr. Anoop Aggarwal from Medical Associates to see if she will require chemotherapy. Dion said this can depend on the size of the tumor, how close a surgeon had to trim next to it to get it out, how many lymphnodes are involved, the patient’s age and more. If chemo is recommended, Aggarwal will treat the patient before referring her to the radiation oncology center for radiation treatment.

Certified Medical Dosimetrist Darla Olson pointed out that even if a patient receives chemotherapy out of town, they can still come back to Clinton for radiation therapy.

“We have instant contact with every other doctor in the area. We can get any report we need, x-rays, pathology reports; everything we need to do your treatment,” Dion said.

The Mercy Radiation Oncology Center has a Varian 2100 EX linear accelerator, outputting as much as 15 million volts of energy. This radiation beam can be shaped however the technician wishes, to treat specific areas for cancer. For breast cancer patients, the center has two breast boards, which allow them to put the patient in the same position each day for treatment.

“I think Mercy has made the investment for cancer care in Clinton that a lot of people don’t realize is here,” Olson said. “They may drive by the building every day, but they don’t realize until they need it, ‘I can have that right here, close to home.’”

The center has a small staff who interacts with each cancer patient. Wirth said it is best to have a smaller staff who can get to know the individuals and their concerns.  

“Many of our patients come in very fearful of what’s going to happen,” Wirth said. “And they’re not going to see 20 people, they’re going to see a few of us so that they will hopefully become comfortable with the situation pretty quickly.”

For many staff members, each patient becomes like a family member. They learn their hobbies, their concerns and their life in general. Dion said the center does not feel like a clinic; instead it possesses a comfortable atmosphere.

“Nobody would choose to have to do this. But if you going to have to, and you do, we’re going to make it as pleasant...and as fun as possible,” Dion said.

Wirth added that they are willing to provide support and information to those with questions and concerns. For more information, contact the Mercy Radiation Oncology Center at 244-263.