Patient stories: Tumor treatment's changing landscape

When surgery is a risky option, cancer patients such as Clara Harris are benefiting from a new and novel form of radiation therapy.

Cancer entered Clara Harris’ life early. Her mother died of the disease when Harris was just 15. Later, her uncle, sister and brothers would develop cancer.

So it wasn’t entirely unexpected when, in 1991, Harris was diagnosed with breast cancer. Given her family’s history, she opted for a radical treatment: She had her left breast removed. With the immediate threat gone, Harris carried on with her life. She and her children followed her husband, Ralph, as his career with Union Pacific Railroad Co. took him to various towns throughout Oregon. Harris raised their children, sang in her church choir and worked in women’s ministries.

She didn’t know at the time that the early-stage breast cancer was just the beginning of her cancer ordeals. Later battles would take her through countless tests, treatments and therapies, from doctor to doctor, and finally to Providence, to Steven Seung, M.D., Ph.D., and to a new form of radiation treatment that holds promise for those with medically inoperable tumors.

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