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One breast cancer patient saw success through radiation therapy

October 5, 2018

A routine mammogram for Carol Lazo turned into an almost year-long ordeal.

Last October, her doctors at Houston Methodist Breast Care Center at Willowbrook discovered two small tumors that turned out to be a type of fast-growing breast cancer.

Lazo, at 66 years old, was shocked. Both of her parents lived until their 90s and had been healthy, she said, so she wasn’t expecting to be told that she had cancer.

“I was thinking (the tumors) were benign, and the doctor looked at me strange when I said I didn’t have any questions at first,” Lazo said.

But, after confirming the disease through a biopsy, Lazo began her treatment process. She underwent surgery to remove the tumors, and then recuperated after her doctors reconstructed her breast.

The next step was chemotherapy, which was a regimen that lasted several months. Lazo said she remained positive through it all—partly because her doctor found a version that didn’t make her lose any hair or feel sick often.

“I tried to continue my life as usual and surround myself with family and friends,” Lazo said.

Her chemotherapy ended in May, and she promptly started the final phase of her treatment— radiation— the following month.

That’s where she met Dr. Kathleen Shadle, a radiation oncologist who treats many cancer patients, including those at the breast care center.

“(Radiation oncology) uses X-rays to treat cancer cells. These are stronger and have much more penetration,” Shadle said.

The X-rays are delivered through a machine called a linear accelerator. It can be used to treat many cancers, but it is considered a standard line of care for a breast cancer patient like Lazo.

“Most people do fairly well with radiation therapy. Some women will get red areas, like sunburn, that peel, but there’s not a lot of pain or discomfort associated with this,” Shadle said.

Lazo said that at first, she was alarmed that the treatments would be a daily occurrence: five days a week for about four weeks. Yet, she seemed to have a good experience despite the many trips to the doctor’s office.

“(Dr. Shadle) was fantastic and very down to earth. She always listened to everything I had to say and her team was precise, accommodating and friendly,” Lazo said.

Lazo also said that even though the process was methodical, she didn’t feel anything while the radiation was targeting any cancer cells still left in her breast.

Lazo is healthy and cancer-free now, but urges her friends to get regular mammograms so that any issues can be caught on time.

“A lot of people are so afraid when they hear they have cancer, but nowadays you can conquer it. Get a good friend, get a good advocate. You can definitely come out a winner,” Lazo said.

jane.stueckemann@chron.com

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