56°F
weather icon Rain

Radiation therapy hot topic for patient, doctor

The first reaction was shock. Then she was petrified.

“It brings you to your knees,” said Gail Cress, 67, who was first diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer one year ago this month. “You just never think it’s going to happen to you.”

She was cruising along, collecting photos of her children and grandchildren, taking trips with her husband of 48 years, Danny, expecting to sail into her golden years relatively healthy.

“I have no family history of breast cancer,” she said. “I try to stay healthy. I walk. I eat the right foods.”

She was fearful of the required treatments that would surely come after watching her sister battle brain cancer and a grueling chemotherapy treatment for more than five years.

“It was very close to my heart what I (might) put my family through, my husband,” said Cress, who underwent surgery within two weeks of her mammogram to remove the 0.1 centimeter tumor and conduct a biopsy of her lymph nodes.

She then went to Comprehensive Cancer Centers of Nevada to move into the second phase of a cancer diagnosis, treatment options. When she entered the office of Dr. Michael Anderson in the fall of 2016, clutching her husband’s hand for strength, she was prepared for the worst.

“He told me ‘I know you are both petrified, but when you leave my office you will feel 90 percent better,’” said Cress, a retired vice president of operations for a bank chain in Maine. “And I did.”

Many patients enter the unknown of a cancer diagnosis fearful of the treatments and therapy, said Anderson, a radiation oncologist for Comprehensive Cancer Centers of Nevada. That fear can keep some patients from getting a screening that could save their life.

In the last 20 years, significant advances in radiation treatments for breast cancer have been made, according to Anderson.

“Radiation treatments are a much different experience now for the patient, even on a daily basis, than it ever was in the past,” he said. “Just 30 minutes in the clinic 10 years ago is down to 10 minutes now. We’ve come a long way, and there is a lot happening for the future.”

It wasn’t always so.

“In the United States, we have been a bit behind the rest of the world,” Anderson said. “Canada and Europe have been using abbreviated schedules of radiation for some time, and we just started adopting that over the last five years.”

The reduced treatment sessions are creating a lot of excitement, he said.

“We are commonly using the three-week schedule now with great results. Treatments are much shorter than they were just a few years ago,” Anderson said.

After surgery to remove early-stage breast cancer, physicians now opt for radiation therapy over more invasive treatments such as chemotherapy. This can reduce the recidivism of cancer in the breast while minimizing side effects.

It’s often given once a day for a short amount of time five days a week. A final turbo dose during the last week specifically targets the area.

Imaging on the diagnostic side is transcribing to the therapeutic side, with better technology offering a better picture of the tumors and treatment sites.

“We now have image-guided therapy where we can precisely target those areas and then reduce side effects such as damage to the lung and heart,” Anderson said. “Our technology is growing at such a rate and allowing us to be quicker. The treatments are much more convenient for patients than they were a decade or two ago.”

The smaller commitments to treatment, even for just a few minutes a day, means patients can continue a relatively normal schedule and get back to their lives faster.

“We are getting to the point that maybe 20 years down the road we will have only one or two treatments in the favorable risk patients,” Anderson said.

Eventually, radiation treatments could be paired down to just three or four times with partial breast radiation.

“Certainly that is where we are going,” he said. “The technology is allowing us to be so much more precise with our treatment than we could be 10 years ago. We can safely deliver much higher doses of treatment without side effects or physical (complications) that we have had in the past.”

Cress started her radiation treatment in January. Again, she prepared for the worst, but she was pleasantly surprised.

“I got through all of it in five minutes, Monday through Friday, all at the same time,” she said. “And I met some wonderful people at Comprehensive Cancer Centers that make it a good experience all around.”

The radiation treatment consisted of 21 sessions, four of which were turbo boosts in which the focus of the radiation is more intense. Her skin peeled around the small area where the radiation was directed in intense doses. She was a bit more tired than usual, but from the outside, she didn’t look as if she was undergoing an intense cancer treatment.

“It was tough, but it wasn’t terrible,” Cress said. “Radiation is really not as bad as you think it is. There are side effects, sure. But nothing compared to chemo.

“I feel very blessed that Dr. Anderson at Comprehensive Cancer Center was there. He made the difference.”

The group of four women who received treatment at the same time formed a bond that has weathered difficult and different outcomes in their prognoses.

“It changed me,” Cress said. “There was a young woman there, a 26-year-old single mother who had a complete mastectomy. I consider myself so lucky. Oh my God, I’m so lucky. Who am I to cry and whine?”

She credits the staff and Anderson for continually asking patients how they are faring, both physically and mentally.

“If it wasn’t for the (Comprehensive Cancer) center I wouldn’t have gotten through it and my family wouldn’t have,” Cress said. “They changed my life.”

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Entertainment Videos
Heavier traffic expected from EDC festival attendees
Electric Daisy Carnival attendees began to vacate the Las Vegas Motor Speedway starting before 5 a.m., the majority heading south on Interstate 15.
What it's like to skip the lines and fly by helicopter to EDC
What it's like to skip the lines and fly by helicopter to EDC. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
DJ Steve Aoki visits Las Vegas comic book store
DJ Steve Aoki visits Torpedo Comics in Las Vegas Friday, May 17, 2019, for a signing for his new comic book series "Neon Future." (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Las Vegas Smith & Wollensky opens at The Venetian
After 18 years, the Smith & Wollensky location on Las Vegas’ south Strip closed in 2017, to be re-born two years later with a rib-cutting — instead of a ribbon-cutting — in The Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal)
Colin Cantwell, Creator Of Iconic Star Wars Ships Visits Vegas
Colin Cantwell, who created and designed such "Star Wars" ships as the X-Wing fighter, and Death Star, met fans at Rogue Toys in Las Vegas today. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Beauty & Essex in Las Vegas makes an EDC Wonder Wheel
In honor of the Electric Daisy Carnival, Beauty & Essex at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas makes its Wonder Wheel party-worthy. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Giada talks Vegas Uncork’d
Giada De Laurentiis talks during Aperitivo Hour, a Vegas Uncork'd event, at her Caesars Palace restaurant, Pronto, May 10, 2019. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Scenes from Vegas Uncork’d 2019 on the Las Vegas Strip
The 13th edition of Vegas Uncork’d by Bon Appetit brought four days of food, wine, celebrity chefs and parties to town, May 9-12. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Three ingredients Gordon Ramsay can’t live without
Bon Appetit's Andy Baraghani interviews the "Hell's Kitchen" chef during a Vegas Uncork'd event at Caesars Palace, May 11, 2019. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vegas Uncork’d launches wiith bubbles and a blade
Dozens of chefs representing some of the Strip’s top restaurants gathered Thursday at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas to launch the 2019 edition of Vegas Uncork’d by Bon Appetit. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bunky the Clown at the clown convention
Bob "Bunky the Clown" Gretton talks about his life as a clown and the Clown Convention which was in Las Vegas at Texas Station this week. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Frying soft-shell crab at Lola’s in Las Vegas
At Lola’s: A Louisiana Kitchen in Las Vegas, soft-shell crab is breaded and fried and served either as an appetizer, po’boy or platter. Heidi Knapp Rinella/Review-Journal
The Stove in Henderson makes Pecan Pie Pancakes
At The Stove in Henderson, chef/partner Antonio Nunez stacks buttermilk pancakes with pecans and dulce de leche and tops them pie crust crumbs. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vinnie Paul remembered at Count's Vamp'd
The late rocker's favorite table at one of his favorite clubs in Las Vegas. (Jason Bracelin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
4DX movie experience at Red Rock
4DX movie experience during a demo reel at Red Rock. (Christopher Lawrence/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
What To Do On May The 4th
There are plenty of events going on May the 4th this year around Las Vegas. Celebrate Star Wars and Comic Book Day all at once. The Rogue Toys, the 501st, Rebel Legion and Millennium Fandom Bar are all hosting fun events to help celebrate your geek-dom. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Water Sports Introduces New Attraction At Lake Las Vegas
Las Vegas Water Sports will debut its new aqua park attraction at Lake Las Vegas Days this weekend. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Making the Space Invader at Greene St. Kitchen in Las Vegas
Lysa Huerta, pastry cook at Greene St. Kitchen at the Palms in Las Vegas, starts with angel food cake, Fruity Pebbles ice cream and strawberry sorbet to create a space creature engulfed in flashing lights and swirling mists. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Pools
The M, Park MGM and NoMad are just a few great pools in Las Vegas. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Jose Andres explains Iberico pork
(Al Mancini/Las Vega Review-Journal)
Inside Life is Beautiful
Craig Asher Nyman explains how Life is Beautiful festival is booked and talks about this year's line-up. (Jason Bracelin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Tattoo'd America Pops Up In Vegas
Tattoo'd America, a new pop-up attraction on the Linq Promenade, had their grand opening Friday. The attraction is dedicate to the culture of tattoos. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Jose Andres gets key to the Strip
Chef Jose Andres was presented with a Key to the Las Vegas Strip and a proclamation declaring April 26 Jose Andres Day in Clark County by County Commissioner Tick Segerblom on Friday. The ceremony took place at his restaurant Bazaar Meat in the SLS Las Vegas. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sadelle’s in Las Vegas makes a grilled cheese with an inverted bagel
Michael Vargas, executive sous chef at Sadelle’s at Bellagio in Las Vegas, inverts an everything bagel and grills it with Swiss, cheddar and Muenster cheeses to make the Inverted Bagel Grilled Cheese. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Learn how to make China Poblano's Salt Air Margarita
Learn how to make China Poblano's Salt Air Margarita (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Tattoo'd America invites you to have fun and take pictures
Kassandra Lopez at Tattoo'd America invites you to have fun and take pictures. (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Prime rib is carved tableside at Lawry’s The Prime Rib in Las Vegas
Dave Simmons, executive chef of Lawry’s The Prime in Las Vegas, which plans special cuts for National Prime Rib Day, demonstrates the restaurant’s service from rolling tableside carving carts. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Making gluten-free pizza at Good Pie in Las Vegas
Good Pie owner/pizzaiola Vincent Rotolo makes his gluten-free pizza.
Rockabilly fans enjoy Las Vegas weather poolside
Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekender runs Thursday, April 18th through Sunday, April 21st with a huge car show on Saturday featuring The Reverend Horton Heat, The Delta Bombers and The Coasters. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Brownie sundae at VegeNation in Las Vegas is completely vegan
Donald Lemperle, chef/owner of VegeNation in Las Vegas and nearby Henderson, NV, makes his sundae with ice cream made with coconut and almond milks, a brownie made with coconut flour and oil and organic sugar and cacao, and fresh fruit. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
THE LATEST