WESTON, Fla. – When Michele Raps was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2002, she immediately underwent chemotherapy, followed by aggressive surgery.
"I did a bilateral mastectomy and removed all the other female organs because I’m BRCA-positive," she said.
But 10 years later, the cancer returned.
"We did more chemo, we did more surgery, and this time we added radiation therapy. Unfortunately, two years later, it surfaced again, and now it was stage 4," Raps said.
Dr. Ana Botero, a radiation oncologist with the Memorial Cancer Institute is among a team of doctors with the Memorial Healthcare System who have been a part of Raps’ cancer treatment, including the use of a specialized device called the Cyberknife.
"Cyberknife is actually a very sophisticated robotic machine of radiation therapy. We call it a linear accelerator," Botero said.
The Cyberknife can pinpoint tumors in the body and destroy them without the need for open surgery or anesthesia. Unlike conventional radiation, the Cyberknife does not damage surrounding tissue and requires fewer treatments that are shorter in duration.
"So one, three or no more than five treatments in a relatively short period of time, and it’s very comfortable and highly effective," Botero said.
Because the Cyberknife is so well-tolerated and highly focused, it can be done in conjunction with system therapies including chemotherapy, immunotherapy and targeted treatments, Botero said.
"So one is basically cleaning the body, treating the systemic disease, and the radiation is treating like a surgery on either the primary tumor or the metastases," Botero said.
As is the case with the majority of Cyberknife patients, Raps said she had no side effects from the treatments and has now been cancer-free for the past five years.
"I’m a product of what’s going on and I’m very happy," Raps said.