Educational Media

Navigating Breast Cancer

Eisenhower delivers expertise and compassionate care

When Sharon Weiss went for her annual screening mammogram in July 2022, she was stunned to learn the radiologist had found a lump in her left breast.

“I had no idea,” says the 82-year-old Rancho Mirage resident.

A biopsy confirmed that she had estrogen receptor (ER)-positive breast cancer, which means that the cancer cells grow in response to the hormone, estrogen. Weiss’s medical oncologist started her on anti-estrogen hormone (endocrine) therapy to block the growth of the cancer cells. In January 2023, she underwent surgery to remove the lump in her breast as well as five nearby lymph nodes to determine if the cancer had spread beyond the primary tumor.

“Four of the lymph nodes were negative and one was positive,” Weiss relates, which meant that her cancer was still at a very early stage (Stage 1). “My surgeon thought he’d taken wide enough margins so that the cancer was contained, but he recommended that I talk to a radiation oncologist about undergoing radiation therapy as a precautionary measure.” He referred her to Board Certified Radiation Oncologist Vasudha Lingareddy, MD, FACRO. 

“I saw Mrs. Weiss after her surgery and everything looked good,” Dr. Lingareddy says. “But we often perform radiation therapy as a prophylactic treatment to eradicate any possible microscopic cancer cells that might be left after surgery.

“This approach has been proven again and again, in multiple large clinical trials, to reduce the risk of local recurrence of breast cancer,” she adds, “and this, in turn, helps improve survival.”

In March of 2023, Weiss underwent 20 daily sessions of radiation therapy. Notably, Eisenhower Health has invested in today’s most advanced radiation oncology technology, giving patients a remarkable edge when it comes to achieving the best-possible outcomes

Precision technology

“We use a technology called the Optical Surface Monitoring System (OSMS) that monitors a patient’s positioning before and during treatment to ensure that radiation is delivered with pinpoint accuracy,” says Dr. Lingareddy. 

With OSMS, a special camera in the treatment room provides a real-time, three-dimensional image of the part of the patient’s body being treated and compares it to the baseline CT imaging that was performed as part of the treatment planning process. 

“The OSMS enables us to be sure we’ve set up the patient properly each and every time and there’s been no change in breast shape or patient positioning,” Dr. Lingareddy says. “The system continues to monitor the patient’s position during treatment — if the patient coughs or moves, for example, the machine will catch it and pause so we can reposition appropriately.”

While OSMS is used in radiation therapy for most types of cancer, it is particularly beneficial for patients like Weiss who have left-sided breast cancer.

“To help protect the heart and lungs from radiation, we use a technique called deep inspiration breath hold during treatment sessions,” Dr. Lingareddy explains. “The patient takes a deep breath and holds it for approximately 20 seconds. This not only minimizes motion but also moves the heart and lung tissues away from the chest wall where we want to focus the radiation — maximizing the radiation dose to the tumor or target and limiting exposure to nearby healthy tissue.

“OSMS ensures the patient is holding her breath properly and remains in the correct position,” she says. “If not, the linear accelerator (the machine that delivers radiation to cancer cells) will not treat.”

Another technological advance that Dr. Lingareddy extols is image-guided radiation therapy.

“Just seconds before a patient receives treatment, we can take either an X-ray or low-dose cone beam CT to show us exactly where the tumor is at that moment,” she says. “This enables us to make sure we’re delivering radiation therapy in the most accurate and safe way possible. 

“Radiation oncology is a highly technology-driven field and these advances have tremendously improved patient care, patient outcomes and patient satisfaction,” Dr. Lingareddy continues. “Because we’re able to treat patients with higher, more precise doses of radiation, we can achieve greater cure rates. 

“Also, because we can deliver higher radiation doses at each session, we can administer treatment in fewer and faster sessions,” she adds. “We used to give everyone five to seven weeks of treatment; now we can often complete treatment in as little as three weeks, which makes it so much easier for the patient.”     

Patient satisfaction
Weiss agrees.
“It was so very simple,” she says. “I was in and out in about five minutes each time.”

Weiss has a unique perspective on how significantly today’s radiation oncology technology has evolved. 

“My late husband was a radiologist and he set up a freestanding imaging center in Missouri; I was his office manager,” she relates, noting that they retired twenty years ago, moving to the desert full time ten years ago. “We did things like mammograms and CT scans — which used to take an hour back then! It’s just amazing how things have changed.”

Dr. Lingareddy herself is impressed with the state-of-the-art radiation therapy technology offered at Eisenhower.

“When I came here from Chicago five years ago, I was thrilled that Eisenhower has advanced equipment that’s on par with any tertiary care center,” she says. “This means that patients here in the desert don’t have to travel far to receive the best possible care.”

But having the latest and greatest technological advances is only part of the patient care equation at Eisenhower. 

“When patients are going through cancer treatment, it can be the most difficult time of their lives,” says Maira Silva, PA. As a physician assistant, her role at the BIGHORN Radiation Oncology Center is to provide medical and emotional support to patients throughout the process, from monitoring them for side effects from treatment, to setting up an ongoing post-treatment surveillance plan, to simply providing a knowledgeable, empathetic ear for them to voice their concerns.

“It’s rewarding to hear from patients that they’re grateful and happy with the care they received,” she says. “They come in scared and come out with nothing but praise for the department.”

After completing her radiation therapy regimen, Weiss returned to Eisenhower in July 2023 for her annual mammogram which showed that she was “all clear.”

“She’s right!” affirms Dr. Lingareddy. “Mammograms show us if there are any signs of recurrence or abnormality, and Mrs. Weiss knows she must continue to be monitored for any sign of recurrence. But she’s done beautifully.”  
Weiss gives high marks to what she calls the “excellent experience” she had while undergoing treatment at Eisenhower. 

“The care team I had there was just great — delightful, kind, personable and caring,” she says. 
“If you have to have breast cancer, Eisenhower is the place to go.” 

For more information or to contact Eisenhower Lucy Curci Cancer Center, call 760.674.3602 or visit