“We’re counseling them regarding the options we think are appropriate for them,” McKee said.
But it’s also a time for women to have a say about what happens to their bodies.
“We really listen to the patient,” McKee said. “We’re really trying to kind of engage women by allowing them to participate in the decision-making. That puts them in the driver’s seat as much as they can be.”
McKee said a lot of women today say they don’t want to have radiation on certain parts of their body. For example, radiation on cancer in the left breast could also expose the heart to those rays. In these cases, there’s the possibility of treating the patient in the prone position — a woman would lie face down on a specially designed table that allows the breast to hang forward, so the radiation exposure on the chest wall is minimal.
In another technique, called gated radiation, a woman would take a deep breath just before the radiation hits.
“When you take a deep breath, your heart retracts a little bit into your chest,” McKee said. “You basically are controlling where the heart is.”
McKee said she loves when a patient comes to the first team meeting armed with knowledge about her cancer and treatment options, either from friends, family or from the Web.
“That’s a sign of someone who wants to be involved,” she said.