• By Joe Dangor

Cancer can’t wait: Why some patients may benefit from expedited breast cancer treatments

June 1, 2020
Breast surgeon Dr. Tina Hieken

When 62-year-old Diana Canty of Converse, Texas was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma in February, 2020 she made plans to travel to Mayo Clinic in Minnesota because of the organization's reputation for excellence in cancer treatment.

Diana's first experience with Mayo Clinic was a video appointment in April with breast surgeon, Tina Hieken , M.D.

Then she made the journey to Rochester, Minnesota because cancer can't wait. "I met with, Nicole Sandhu, M.D. of the Breast Diagnostic Clinic," said Diana. "She explained the treatment options available to me and also explained that surgeries were temporarily being delayed due to COVID-19."

While in Rochester, Diana also met with Dr. Hieken who offered information on an expedited treatment option for breast cancer.

According to Dr. Hieken the expedited breast cancer treatment protocol is available to women with certain types of early stage breast cancer and allows patients to complete their entire treatment, including surgery and radiation therapy, in less than 10 days.

"Women with small breast cancer tumors and no cancer in their lymph nodes may be able have a lumpectomy in an outpatient procedure," explains. Dr. Hieken. "These patients can leave the operating room the same day as their surgery with a catheter in place, which is used to administer brachytherapy, a form of radiation therapy, post-surgery." 

Watch: Dr. Tina Hieken discuss expedited breast cancer treatment

Journalists: Sound bites with Dr. Tina Hieken are in the downloads.

"After surgery, patients receive brachytherapy treatment over five weekdays, twice a day, approximately six hours apart, for a total of 10 treatments," explains Dr. Sean Park, M.D., a Mayo Clinic radiation oncologist.

Given her concerns about being away from home and especially during a pandemic, Diana thought the treatment option was a perfect fit for her. She was also impressed by the steps Mayo Clinic put in place to help ensure the health and safety its patients during the pandemic.

Before leaving Rochester, Dr. Sandhu prescribed an Aromatase Inhibitor for Diana to help slow, or even stop, the growth of her cancer until she returned to Mayo Clinic in May for her expedited breast cancer treatment.  

When Diana returned to Rochester in May, she stayed at the Kahler Inn and Suites for two weeks while she prepared for and received the expedited treatment. Part of the preparation included a blood serum test and a nasal swab to test for antibodies to the COVID-19 virus or an active infection. 

Brachytherapy tool treatment

Next, Diana  prepared for and completed the expedited treatment which included surgery and brachytherapy treatments that were completed in less than two weeks.  

"The care I received was perfectly amazing," says Diana. "Dr. Sandhu, Dr. Hieken, and Dr. Park made me feel confident and safe in their care. The staff was very reassuring and made me feel like I was in the safest and best place on earth for my care and treatment. I recommend Mayo Clinic to everyone!"

For more information on the treatment:


Check the CDC website for additional updates on COVID-19. For more information and all your COVID-19 coverage, go to the Mayo Clinic News Network and mayoclinic.org.

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