According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, “breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States”, and “each year it is estimated that over 220,000 women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer”. With October being National Breast Cancer Awareness month, Dr. Cynara Coomer (the Chief of Breast Surgery and Director of the Comprehensive Breast Center at Staten Island University Hospital and Fox News Medical Contributor) and her patient Celia Duffy joined me to discuss the BC5 Project which advises and educates women diagnosed with early stage breast cancer, as well as brachytherapy (a five day radiation treatment).
Candace Rose: Dr. Coomer, what is the BC5 Project?
Dr. Cynara Coomer: “The BC5 Project is a program where we’re empowering and educating women and advising them on the treatment options that are available to them. It’s really broadening their awareness. Women need to know that not one size fits all when it comes to their treatment options. With one in eight women being diagnosed with invasive breast cancer, we want them to know that there are various different options for them.”
Candace Rose: Are there any underutilized options women should know about?
Dr. Cynara Coomer: “One of the most common underutilized options is brachytherapy. It’s a five day treatment of radiation treatment. It’s a targeted dose that’s given within the breast tissues. Unlike whole breast radiation, which is six weeks of treatment, the skin and chest wall are not exposed to radiation treatment and they also don’t get the fatigue that comes along with that. It’s not only shorter so that they can get back to their lifestyles, whether it’s work/family and friends, but in addition to that, it really has no side effects.”
Candace Rose: Can you both offer some thoughts and advice for women who have recently been diagnosed with breast cancer?
Dr. Cynara Coomer: “Definitely speak to your doctor about your options. The BC5 Project actually did a survey which indicated that women really do rely on their doctors recommendations, and of the women that they surveyed, less than 7% of the women had actually heard about the treatment options. And of the women that were surveyed, 76% of them said they would have liked to have known because they would have liked to have been candidates for this treatment. Do your research and also speak to your physicians about what your options are, especially when you’ve been diagnosed with early stage breast cancer. My patient Celia has also undergone brachytherapy has undergone and she has advice to offer patients.”
Celia Duffy: “I underwent brachytherapy in July. It was a one week treatment. Treatments were twice a day for five days and I had no side effects, no pain. It was fine for me, so I would advise women to do their research with their doctor and decide on this option.”
Candace Rose: How are you feeling today, Celia?
Celia Duffy: “I feel fine, thank you.”
Candace Rose: Do either of you have any additional information you’d like to share?
Dr. Cynara Coomer: “One of the things I think is so important to highlight about five day radiation is the future options for patients if they’ve undergone it. Patients who have whole breast radiation, if they develop a recurrence or second breast cancer will likely need to undergo a mastectomy because they can’t have radiation again. But a woman who has done the five day radiation treatment, may be able to do a lumpectomy and radiation treatment should she develop a recurrence or a second breast cancer. It certainly opens up the doors for patients in the future.”
Candace Rose: Where can viewers go for more information on brachytherapy and the BC5 Project?
Dr. Cynara Coomer: “They can go to our website at BC5Project.com to find out more information, what their options are and how to discuss it with their physicians.”