At the Hahn Cancer Center, our radiation therapy nurse Connie Clem, RN, develops a special bond with her patients receiving Accelerated Partial Breast Irradiation (APBI). This therapy targets the radiation directly to a specific area of the breast - and takes only five days to complete. (To compare, other types of radiation treatment take 6-7 weeks to complete. RMH offers both types of treatment at the Hahn Cancer Center. Not every breast cancer patient is eligible for APBI.)
With APBI, a small, soft balloon attached to a thin catheter is inserted inside the lumpectomy cavity by the breast surgeon. The patient then comes to the Cancer Center twice a day for five days for treatment. To deliver the required therapy, a tiny source of radiation is placed into the balloon by a computer-controlled machine.
The Radiation Oncologist oversees each treatment. After each therapy session, the radioactive source is removed leaving the balloon catheter in place for the next treatment. Each treatment takes approximately 30 minutes and is administered twice a day, about six hours apart. On the fifth day of treatment, the balloon is removed, and the area is closed with a small bandage.
You can imagine how happy our patients are when they find out they're a candidate for APBI treatment! Being able to receive all the necessary care they need in just a week's time, as opposed to a month or more of treatment, is an immense relief.
Since Connie assesses and cares for these patients twice a day for a week, a special bond is developed. Often times Connie can be seen working late into the evening because the treatments for her patients must be at least 6 hours apart.
When asked how the week went for her, one patient stated, "It was that nurse and me. I was #1. She was so caring to make sure I was at ease and she did everything she could to make sure I was going to be comfortable for the night.'
Patients going through APBI treatment often bond to each other. For example, we had two patients being treated close to the Easter holiday. One patient invited the other to church for Easter Sunday. The patient commented on how nice it was to be invited to Easter Sunday, and announced she was going.
As nurses, we all cherish the fact that we can help make a huge difference for the patient in terms of emotional comfort, physical comfort and positive clinical outcomes.
If you've been diagnosed with breast cancer and want to know if you're eligible for APBI treatment, please speak with your breast surgeon..
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