When I was first diagnosed with DCIS in January of 2013, my breast surgeon asked me if I wanted to participate in a clinical trial whereby I would take black cohosh (an over-the-counter herb women often use to stave off hot flashes) for three weeks prior to my lumpectomy surgery. The thought was that it would shrink the size of the lesion and by the time surgery took place, lo and behold, my lesion only measured 5mm and initially I was told after my biopsy that it was 1.2cm. Did the black cohosh actually work? No way to know I guess because sometimes the actual lesion is smaller when they do the lumpectomy they told me. The trial is still going on so I guess I won't know for a while.
I also took part in a clinical trial for partial breast radiation which would mean having gold seeded into my breast where the marker was and then having a CT scan daily each time I went in for my external beam radiation treatment. This is not the same as brachytherapy, in which the radiation is given internally, but it was the same as normal radiation that is given to the breast on the outside.
The treatment was to be for 5 days, 2 times a day, 6 hours apart. I will be seen by my radiation oncologist for 5 years, twice a year to check the cosmetic outcome as well as how well it worked in terms of not having a recurrence. How did I qualify? I had to have wide margins (so had a re-excision after my first lumpectomy to make this happen) be over the age of 50, have either DCIS or Stage 1 and have never had breast cancer before. I met all of the criteria, so I opted in because I did not want to have the 33 treatment protocol if I could help it.
I had some serious exhaustion when the week was over for about a month and some slight browning of the skin. My breast seems 'smaller' than it used to as well (shrinkage?), now that I am more than two years out from treatment. I am hoping that by participating, women can opt for a shorter course of treatment and that the whole breast does not have to be involved, only the tumor bed. I guess you can liken my treatment to having 10 'boosts,' as the 'grays' (what radiation is measured in) were higher for each of my treatments than it would be for someone having 33 daily treatments over the course of 6 or so weeks.
I am happy that I did both trials. We don't have the results yet as the trials are still going on as we speak.
-- april485, participated in a Black Cohosh Trial and a Partial Breast Radiation Trial
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily represent those of Breastcancer.org nor are they intended as a substitute for the medical advice of physicians.