Buddy Check 7: Radiation Therapy

Published: Sep. 7, 2015 at 3:40 PM CDT
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After cancer patients battle chemotherapy and surgery, the fight is not over.

Doctors are using specific techniques with radiation therapy to try and keep the disease from returning.

After being diagnosed with breast cancer, Kristina Carlson didn't want the disease to define the rest of her life.

"One of my main goals in getting my cancer treatment was just to make sure that at the end of it, i was able to get back to my level of health I had before," Carlson said.

After a double mastectomy and chemotherapy, her doctor suggested radiation therapy.

It delivers high energy rays to destroy cancer cells and reduces the likelihood of cancer returning.

However, there are side-effects like fatigue and temporary skin irritation.

There's also a small, but increased risk of heart disease for patients like Kristine receiving left-sided breast cancer treatment.

For that, her doctor uses a technique called respiratory gating, which monitors breathing and helps reduce radiation exposure to the heart.

Dr. Adam Wayne Nowlan, Radiation Oncologist, "So when you take a deep breath, the heart actually moves down and to the right. For patients being treated for left sided breast cancer, that's often enough to move it completely out of the way. You turn the machine on only when the heart is out of the way."

The treatment is now over-- but her upbeat attitude remains.