Wednesday, October 24, 2012
London Health Sciences Centre
London Radiation Oncologist Changing the Face of Cervical Cancer Treatment
October 22-28 is National Cervical Cancer Awareness Week, and London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) patient Nicole Padfield is sharing her story of recovery thanks to an innovative treatment credited with saving her life.
Padfield, of Sarnia, Ontario, had been experiencing bothersome symptoms toward the end of her pregnancy - minor spotting, pain, discomfort - and had been examined to ensure they were nothing more than irritations. Her primary concern was for her baby, who she was assured was healthy and safe. It wasn't until a routine Pap smear was performed at her 6 week post-partum check-up that she received the devastating news – she had an aggressive form of cervical cancer.
Padfield was referred to LHSC's London Regional Cancer Program (LRCP) Gynecologic Oncology Disease Site Team where she saw Dr. David D'Souza for assessment and treatment.
Facing a cancer that was deep in the tissue and spreading, D'Souza, a radiation oncologist at LRCP, knew that Padfield was a prime candidate for a treatment that few physicians in Canada are qualified to perform – Gynecological Interstitial Brachytherapy. In layman's terms, the procedure involves the implantation of radiation "seeds" directly into the cancerous tissues through hollow needles, treating the disease at its source. For women with cancer of the cervix or vagina which has tracked deep into the tissues, complete removal by surgery is inadequate. Standard intracavitary brachytherapy cannot penetrate far enough typically and, if done, can potentially cause life altering damage to internal organs such as the bladder and bowel.
“With interstitial radiation, we are able to administer a greater dose of radiation to these tough to treat cancers, with fewer complications than standard radiation and with a better success rate”, says D'Souza.
For Padfield, it meant the difference between being an active parent to her three children, or being left with serious lifelong medical challenges – or worse.
To date, over 100 women have received this procedure at LHSC - the only hospital currently offering it in Ontario. Women have been referred from across the province and as far away as Saskatchewan. Further advances continue to be made with the LRCP having incorporated Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) to visualize the tumour for targeting.
Two years after her ordeal began Padfield remains cancer free, and knows that she has Dr. D'Souza to thank for allowing her to be a healthy, active mom to her children aged two, four and eighteen.
Padfield hopes her experience can help other women who may be facing the same battle she did. “It didn't hit me at the time how serious my diagnosis was, but looking back, I know I was very fortunate that this treatment option was available. To other women, I would say if you're noticing things that just don't seem right, put your embarrassment aside and see your doctor. It may just save your life”.
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London Health Sciences Centre
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