First in Care
Because Nan’s breast cancer was caught in its early stage and hadn’t metastasized, the four experts at the STAT Clinic recommended IORT. In this innovative treatment, radiation is administered in a single dose at the time of the procedure.
Wellstar Radiation Oncologist Dr. Mark McLaughlin explained why IORT is so revolutionary for cancer patients.
“After surgery, breast cancer patients are often placed on a radiation regimen that lasts anywhere from four to six weeks. It’s a daily treatment at least five days a week that can be quite time-consuming,” Dr. McLaughlin said. “With IORT, we’re able to remove the tumor in its entirety and administer radiation just one time, in a single dose while the patient is under anesthesia in the operating room.”
Since the radiation from IORT is concentrated, it just focuses on the area affected by cancer and preserves healthy tissues. This procedure is particularly useful for cancers that may be difficult to remove during surgery or otherwise inoperable.
“Nan’s a busy lady. She had a lot of obligations and was also a full-time practicing attorney,” Dr. McLaughlin added. “It’s something she didn’t have to be encumbered by—she would finish her radiation the same day as her surgery before she even woke up from the anesthesia.”
“After we explained IORT, Nan was very enthusiastic and completely on board from the minute she heard about the new treatment,” Dr. Pearson said about Nan’s positive outlook on the surgery.
And, with Wellstar North Fulton Hospital close to home, Nan didn’t have to travel far for the most advanced healthcare.
“We’re living in such a great time for healthcare,” Nan raved about her experience at Wellstar North Fulton Hospital. “I would have never imagined some of these advancements to be possible. But they’re here—and they’re at Wellstar.”
A little over a week after visiting the STAT Clinic, the day of Nan’s surgery arrived in record time.
“When I was going into surgery, the technology blew me away,” Nan said, recalling the high-tech machine used for IORT. “Everyone in the hospital was excited for me to be the first to receive IORT and what it meant for other patients in the future.”
“Wellstar North Fulton Hospital is the only facility in the area with IORT. In fact, Wellstar is the only health system that has a portable IORT unit,” Dr. Pearson said, noting how they have since transported the machine to Kennestone, Paulding and back for IORT procedures. “That means we can bring the treatment to where the patients most need it.”
Wellstar continually invests in new technology, treatments and therapies to advance the possibilities for patient care in metro Atlanta and beyond.
“At Wellstar, we’re always bringing in new technology like IORT, CyberKnife robotic surgery and image-guided radiation therapy (IGRT),” Dr. McLaughlin said. “With these innovative technologies, we can give patients a wide variety of safe treatment options so they can receive the best care possible.”
Not just one physician can perform IORT on their own. It takes a dedicated care team made up of a breast surgeon and radiation oncologist to make the surgery a success. In Nan’s case, Dr. Pearson and Dr. McLaughlin went in together on the day of the surgery.
“We are literally side by side in the operating room, working together,” Dr. Pearson described her close collaboration with Dr. McLaughlin. “During the IORT procedure, I first operated on Nan to remove the tumor entirely. Then Dr. McLaughlin administered radiation from inside the breast tissue to ensure the cancer wouldn’t return.”
“After about two hours, Nan completed her surgery and treatment at the same time,” Dr. Pearson added with a smile.
But if not for the persistence of her primary care provider and the keen eyes of the mammogram technicians, Nan’s cancer might not have been caught so quickly.
That’s why Dr. Pearson urges all women to get screened for mammograms every year. “Because of the mammogram, we caught Nan’s breast cancer early—and the earlier we catch breast cancer, the better the outcome.”
Nan echoed Dr. Pearson’s sentiments on women’s health screenings. “Make the time to get a mammogram,” she said, urging women to get checked even if they have busy schedules.
“There’s nothing to fear about it. Getting that one little test saved my life.”
From the technicians to the physicians, the Wellstar care team was with Nan through it all. Now in remission, Nan was able to return to her law practice and get back to what she loves most: helping her friends and family in Alpharetta.
“Everyone at Wellstar is terrific,” Nan beamed. “They took care of me every step of the way. I can never thank them enough for everything they did for me.”