Joan Garde with radiation equipment 

Gift from the Heart Improving Patient Care

Joan Garde's gift of a “Phantom” ensures accuracy of radiation treatment for Einstein patients with cancer

 

Joan GardeFirst-hand experience often inspires the desire to give back. For Blue Bell, Pa. resident Joan Garde, her own personal experience of fighting and defeating breast cancer was the impetus towards enhancing radiation treatment for lung and breast cancer patients at Einstein Medical Center Montgomery.

But even more inspiring was her desire to follow her heart and honor the man with whom she shared 61 wonderful years; her husband, Joseph.

No stranger to Einstein, Garde has served as a volunteer member of The Auxiliary of Einstein Healthcare Network and is a devoted patient of Robert G. Somers, MD, a nationally-recognized expert in breast surgery and past chairperson for the Department of Surgery at Einstein Medical Center Philadelphia. When presented with the difficult news she had breast cancer, Joan knew who she wanted treating her and where she wanted to go.

“I have been with Dr. Somers for almost 40 years. He and his daughter (Debra Somers Copit, MD, chief of breast imaging for Einstein Healthcare Network and associate professor of radiology at Jefferson Medical College) are wonderful,” she reports. “They guided me through the initial stages of treatment and then connected me with Dr. Montesano (Angelica T. Montesano, MD, Radiation Oncologist, Einstein Healthcare Network) to receive my radiation treatment. She was wonderfully caring and patient with me throughout the whole process.”

At the Karabots Center for Radiation Oncology at Einstein Medical Center Montgomery, where Garde was treated, physicists, dosimetrists and physicians collaborate to design personalized radiation treatment plans for every patient. Being able to pinpoint and maximize radiation is paramount when developing treatment options. Every plan is as different as every cancer is unique.

“Before we do anything clinically, we test on phantoms,” explains Christopher Hand, PhD, chief physicist for Einstein Healthcare Network. “These phantoms help to ensure we are treating patients correctly, the equipment is working properly and assure us the systems are operating exactly as we are expecting them to operate.”

The Dynamic Thorax Phantom, purchased with the generous donation made by Garde in memory of her husband, helps physicists like Dr. Hand and Caitlyn Fitzherbert, MS, assess one of the more difficult physical occurrences to mimic; how patient breathing impacts movement of a tumor in the lung or breast. The machine can be set to simulate the breathing pattern of a patient and the size and placement of a tumor. Scanning by the 4-D CT scanner allows the physicists to determine if the calibrations they have set for the delivery of the radiation are accurate.

“The key is to accurately deliver the maximum amount of radiation directly to the tumor and to minimize damage to healthy tissue surrounding the tumor,” says Dr. Hand. “For patients with lung cancer we can avoid damaging healthy parts of the lung. Treatment can minimize any contact with the heart. This is a consideration as there have been connections made between radiation treatment for breast cancer and later development of coronary artery disease.”

When Garde first learned she was to have radiation treatment for her breast cancer this was a concern.

“I was apprehensive about the possibility of coronary artery disease,” she recalls. “Ultimately, the physicians and technologists at Einstein Montgomery helped to allay my fears and I am confident they did an excellent job.” (Editor’s note: Garde has been cancer-free for nearly a year.)

When she learned there was the chance to make a contribution toward a piece of technology to even further ensure the accuracy of radiation treatment, she jumped at the chance.

“This is a very exciting piece of equipment," she says. "Dr. Hand and the staff gave me my own private demonstration of the equipment not too long after it arrived. It is amazing!”

Her enthusiasm about the use of this advanced technology to enhance the accuracy of treatment is only outdone by her excitement about the overall impact it will have on patient care.

“I have been there and I know how important it was to feel confident going into treatment. Confidence in the treatment and my physicians made a real difference in my outcome,” she says. “I am so grateful to my Einstein physicians and the staff who played such a huge role in my recovery. I hope to have the opportunity to help make a difference in the lives of patients like me in the future.”

Interested in making a tribute gift honoring someone special - a loved one, a caregiver, a physician or nurse? Visit the Tribute section of the Einstein Healthcare Network Web site or contact Ariel Belli (215) 456-6211; belliarl@einstein.edu.

Learn about the many ways you can help support the mission of Einstein Healthcare Network.

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