Local breast cancer patients receive faster treatment

Posted at 5:14 PM, Oct 16, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-16 18:14:45-04

KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Science and technology are changing rapidly in the battle against breast cancer, and a new technique helped a local cancer survivor reach the finish line. 

"I think I was just shocked more than anything," said Natalie Rankin, a breast cancer survivor.

It was the day after her 30th birthday that Rankin found out she had breast cancer. She said it was in the shower that she first noticed the lump.

"You just have this intuition like you know, like I knew when it didn't go away, in my mind I was like you've got to the doctor," Rankin said. 

Fortunately, Rankin caught her Stage 1B breast cancer at an early stage. After having a Lumpectomy, Rankin went through chemotherapy, followed by radiation. 

"Even with chemo, you always think of like the movies, like it’s awful, you're sick all the time, and then you're in radiation for months," said Rankin. 

That wasn’t the case for Rankin, who said she called herself the "worst cancer patient" because all she had to do was go into the doctor's office on her lunch breaks.

Rankin went in for treatment five times a week for five weeks.

"I was on my 5th week and I thought I was on my 3rd, and they were like no, your next one's your last one, and I was like oh okay, this is nice," Rankin said. 

Radiation therapy that used to last six to seven weeks can now be done in as little as three weeks for patients with early stage breast cancer.

"There have been several studies that have shown an increase in quality of life by getting the radiation done faster, less time off of work, again, there's less of the side effects as well," Dr. Melissa Mitchell, a radiation oncologist at The University of Kansas Health System, said. 

Rankin said finishing her radiation in a shorter amount of time helped her put it all behind her.

"Having that shorter time frame helps you kind of put it behind you. It will always be a part of you but it helps you kind of [say] okay I'm done with this, I can move on," Rankin said.

Early-stage breast cancer patients at The University of Kansas Health System have been receiving the shorter course of radiation treatment since 2013.

Beginning in 2018, all early stage breast cancer patients throughout the U.S. will go through the new fast-track therapy.