B.C. oncologist changing the face of breast cancer treatment

Dr. Juanita Crook, a Kelowna oncologist, has seen 100 per cent success using brachytherapy to treat breast cancer in some patients.

A Kelowna oncologist is applying an innovative breast cancer treatment and the success rate is staggering.

Dr. Juanita Crook, radiation oncologist for BC Cancer and professor of radiation oncology at UBC Okanagan, has used brachytherapy to treat breast cancer in about 75 B.C. women. These 75 women are now cancer free.

“The results are great, 100 per cent cancer free,” said Crook. “In the period of time I have been doing this nobody has had a recurrence of the tumour in the tumour site where it was treated.”

Treatments have been so successful that now each and everyone of her surgeries are teaching moments for doctors who fly in from all over North America to learn the treatment technique and take it home to their regions.

Brachytherapy is beneficial over traditional radiation or chemotherapy as it delivers a smaller, more targeted, dose of radiation that produces fewer side effects.

“Instead of external radiation where the treatment is given from the outside and beamed in, brachytherapy is a form of internal radiation where we are applying the radiation sources directly into the tumour or the tumour bed to deliver treatment from the inside out,” explains Crook.

“It is more accurate, it can be given over a short period of time and you can be given a higher dose as you are not beaming through the rest of the body, you are putting it right where it needs to be.”

It is also a one-time in-hospital treatment that could save cancer patients around the province countless hours and dollars travelling to and from treatment centres that provide traditional chemotherapy or radiation.

“In Kelowna especially, we have women coming from six, seven or eight hours away and if they are having radiation to the breast they have to be away from home. It is too far to travel back and forth everyday, so they have to be away from home for a month to get the radiation,” said Crook.

“If they are a candidate for this type of treatment, they’re excited because it means just coming for half a day for a one-hour procedure and they can go home the same day. It makes quite a difference for them. The women are very pleased.”

Related: World-class PET/CT scanner coming to Kelowna

Related: Woman to Watch: Dr. Juanita Crook

Related: Treatment prognosis is looking better

Brachytherapy has been a cancer treatment method for decades and has been used widely in the treatment of prostate cancer, but Crook is the first doctor to treat breast cancer with it in B.C.

“The technique that were using here was first developed for prostate cancer 25 years ago,” says Crook.

“We use this all the time now and have treated thousands of men in British Columbia with this successfully, it is a curative treatment, but aiming and delivering this radiation to the prostate is different than to the breast so the treatment had to be adapted.

“This treatment was developed by a colleague in Toronto about 12-14 years ago, I worked with him and when I moved to B.C. I wanted to adopt the program here.”

It is a treatment that she estimates could be used on 20 per cent of breast cancer patients. With approximately 3,700 B.C. residents diagnosed each year, that’s 740 people that could benefit from this treatment option.

“Only some tumour sites and locations are appropriate for this but when it can be used it is quite a benefit for the patient,” she adds.

This treatment could also be the difference for whether a woman has to make the tough decision to have a mastectomy or not.

“Surgeons working in communities far from Kelowna often have to do a full removal of the breast, a mastectomy, because their patient cannot travel to Kelowna for radiation treatment,” says Crook.

“If they can offer to this patient to come to Kelowna for the procedure and be home the next day, they can make it happen and save their breast. That is important.”

Crook reiterates that this treatment is a form of partial-breast radiation that has less toxicity and is done quickly.

“I cannot imagine it would be easy for any woman to have a mastectomy. They live with it, and adjust to it, but it is a very difficult thing to go through,” adds Crook. “Given a choice, I’m sure the vast majority of women would prefer to keep their breast.”

Since 2012, the permanent radioactive seed implants for breast cancer have been offered in Kelowna for selected women following lumpectomy.

While Crook says most surgeons in B.C. are now aware of this option, she hopes breast cancer patients will talk to their surgeon to ensure this treatment option has been considered.

“Discuss it with your surgeon before surgery,” urges Crook. “Tell them you would like to have this treatment if it is possible. Many surgeons know about it now and many have phoned me and asked what they need to do differently in their surgery to ensure their patient is suitable for this.”

Crook has spent her career in cancer treatment, calling Kelowna home for the last nine years.

For more information about this treatment and Dr. Crook, please click here.

October also marks Breast Cancer Awareness Month, to learn more click here.

To report a typo, email:
newstips@kelownacapnews.com
.


@carmenweld
carmen.weld@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

(Photo Submitted by the Gord Bamford Foundation)
Lacombe’s Gord Bamford to perform a virtual concert for a good cause

The concert aims to raise awareness for Operation Santa Clause

Alberta Health Services' central zone jumped from 162 active COVID-19 cases to 178 on Friday. Five additional deaths were reported provincewide, bringing the toll to 323. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
622 new COVID-19 cases set another daily high Friday

Province confirmed 622 additional cases Friday

File Photo
Sylvan Lake Town Council approves second attempt for downtown cannabis retail shop

Firestone Cannabis submitted a new application after their first was denied in August

Alberta children whose only symptom of COVID-19 is a runny nose or a sore throat will no longer require mandatory isolation, starting Monday.
477 new COVID-19 cases confirmed in Alberta on Thursday

Changes being made to the COVID-19 symptom list for school-age children

Three young Sylvan Lake residents are asking for lights to be added to the walking trail system to make them safer and less scary at night. Photo by @workinonmyfitness72
Young Sylvan Lake residents ask for lights to be added to walking trails

Three young Sylvan Lake residents appeared before Council recently to present their ask

Over the years, Janice Blackie-Goodine’s home in Summerland has featured elaborate Halloween displays and decorations each October. (File photo)
QUIZ: How much do you really know about Halloween?

Oct. 31 is a night of frights. How much do you know about Halloween customs and traditions?

(Photo submitted)
Rimbey resident avid author despite Parkinson’s

Wins more accolades for her writing

(Photo Submitted by the Gord Bamford Foundation)
Lacombe’s Gord Bamford to perform a virtual concert for a good cause

The concert aims to raise awareness for Operation Santa Clause

City of Wetaskiwin Mayor presenting the AUMA Above & Beyond Award to John Maude and Susan Quinn. Ren Goode/ City of Wetaskiwin.
Wetaskiwin County residents win the AUMA Above & Beyond Award

John Maude and Susan Quinn are being recognized for their role in Wetaskiwin’s sustainability.

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole rises during Question Period in the House of Commons in Ottawa on Wednesday October 28, 2020. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)
Conversion therapy ban gets approval in principle, exposes Conservative divisions

Erin O’Toole himself voted in favour of the bill, as did most Conservative MPs

Pilots Ilona Carter and Jim Gray of iRecover Treatment Centres, in front of his company’s aircraft, based at Ponoka’s airport. (Perry Wilson/Submitted)
95-year-old Ilona Carter flies again

Takes to the skies over Ponoka

Children’s backpacks and shoes are seen at a daycare in Langley, B.C., on Tuesday May 29, 2018. Alberta Children’s Services Minister Rebecca Schulz says the province plans to bring in a new way of licensing and monitoring child-care facilities. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Alberta proposes legislation to change rules on child-care spaces

Record-keeping, traditionally done on paper, would be allowed digitally

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shakes hands with US Vice-President Joe Biden on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Friday, December 9, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Patrick Doyle
A Biden presidency could mean good news for Canadian environment policy: observers

Experts and observers say even a U.S. outside the Paris agreement may ultimately end up in the same place

People take a photo together during the opening night of Christmas Lights Across Canada, in Ottawa, on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019. The likelihood that most Canadians will enjoy a holly jolly Christmas season of gatherings, caroling and travel is unlikely, say public health experts who encourage those who revel in holiday traditions to accept more sacrifices ahead. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Ho, ho, no: Experts advise preparing for a scaled-back COVID holiday season

Many of the holiday season’s highlights have already been scrapped or are unlikely to take place

Most Read