Woman thankful after procedure uncovers hidden cancer

Joyce McCain, 65, lives for golf, but she’s not satisfied with her game.

“It’s not where it needs to be. I didn’t get a chance to really play this summer,” she said.

That’s because McCain spent the summer fighting, not one, but two types of cancer.

“I had to stop and think, you know, everything happens for a reason,” said McCain.

In March, McCain was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer. She had the tumor removed, and then her primary care doctor suggested she look into radiation techniques that are designed to treat breast cancer while protecting the heart.

“What we end up seeing, when we follow women who’ve had radiation, to the left breast in particular, years down the road, is that they have a higher rate of cardiac complications,” said Chirag Shah, M.D., McCain’s radiation oncologist at Cleveland Clinic.

According to Dr. Shah, heart-sparing radiation techniques for breast cancer can limit radiation exposure to the heart by as much as 75 percent.

One technique involves a special breathing device to help ensure radiation is only delivered when the space between the breast and heart is greatest.

A CT scan is needed prior to treatment – and that’s when doctors noticed something suspicious.

“He said, ‘We saw something that didn’t look right,'” said McCain. “He says it appears as though you have a spot on your right kidney.”

Just weeks after learning she had breast cancer, McCain was diagnosed with kidney cancer as well.

“He says, it’s in your kidney,” McCain said. “And he says, we don’t want it to go through. If it goes through the kidney wall then it’s too late.”

McCain had her kidney removed and then continued on with radiation for breast cancer. She’s now cancer free and thankful for the technique that saved her heart – and her life.

“Had it not been for the breast cancer, and then my primary physician recommending me for this type of radiation treatment, I don’t think that kidney cancer would have been spotted,” said McCain. “I say the Lord has blessed me.”