At 77 years old, Arleen Kraynak decided that she didn’t need mammograms anymore.
She figured it would be a waste of time because she had 35 annual mammograms and there was never a problem. But she began feeling guilty and had her annual screening mammogram.
She’s glad she did. This time, her mammogram showed a spot on her right breast and then an ultrasound detected a mass. She was referred to breast surgeon Christa Corn who diagnosed breast cancer during a biopsy.
“I was scared. I didn’t want to have to go through surgery, radiation and chemotherapy,’’ Kraynak said.
But Corn told Kraynak about a new alternative: intraoperative radiation therapy (IORT) at Abrazo Central Campus. It is the only hospital in Phoenix to use the FDA-approved Xoft® Axxent® Electronic Brachytherapy (eBx®) System.
After having a lumpectomy to remove a small breast tumor, Kraynak received a concentrated dose of radiation at her tumor site for about 12 minutes while she was still under anesthesia.
“With IORT, you wake up from your outpatient lumpectomy surgery and you’ve already had your radiation,’’ Corn said.
Traditionally, patients have external radiation treatments on their breasts five times a week for five weeks.
“Skin burns are a common side effect of external radiation. Patients also experience anxiety about the copays, transportation and time spent to have radiation treatments over several days,’’ Corn said.
Kraynak is among 35 patients who have had the IORT procedure at Abrazo Central Campus, 2000 W. Bethany Home Road, since the program started in May 2014. IORT may be used for patients with early-stage breast cancer who meet certain selection criteria. A radiation oncologist and physicist work with the breast surgeon in the operating room to deliver the x-ray radiation using a balloon-shaped applicator during the outpatient surgery.
Dan Jones, Abrazo Central Campus Chief Executive Officer, said the purchase of this new technology underscores the hospital’s commitment to patient care.
“This is a promising and significant development for both the hospital and patients needing minimally invasive breast surgery with minimally invasive radiation,” Jones said.
In honor of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October, Kraynak is sharing her story to encourage women to get regular mammograms. Breast cancer is the leading cancer among women in the United States, but early detection can lead to a 98 percent survival rate, according to the National Cancer Institute.
Since her IORT treatment a year ago, Kraynak has had two normal mammograms. The Phoenix resident carries a pamphlet about IORT in her purse and shows it to women along with her personal message about mammograms wherever she goes – the senior center, grocery store or the bingo hall.
“I’m happy that Abrazo Central Campus has this IORT technology. It will put a lot of women’s minds at ease because treating their cancer is easier,’’ Kraynak said. “My advice is for women to regularly get mammograms no matter how old you are.’’
Besides Corn, breast surgeons Lise Walker and Victor Zannis also use IORT at Abrazo Central Campus.