This case involves a breast cancer patient who suffered severe burns after radiation treatment. The treating oncologist told the patient to keep an eye out for any abnormal skin reaction, particularly red patches or rash. The patient was informed that if she presented with skin rashes, radiation therapy would be paused to allow time for the skin to recover and to avoid scarring. When the patient underwent radiation therapy, she experienced a severe skin reaction from radiation injury. Her radiation injury was evident to the staff administering the treatment, but the staff elected to continue performing the treatment despite knowing that radiation should be paused in light of such indicators. The patient suffered permanent scarring as a result of the treatment. An expert in radiation oncology was sought to discuss protocol for preventing radiation burns.
Question(s) For Expert Witness
- 1. Do you have extensive experience treating patients suffering from breast cancer?
- 2. What protocols should be put in place to prevent radiation burns?
Expert Witness Response E-010173
I am an associate professor in the department of radiation and cellular biology at a major university and medical director of a major university-affiliated cancer center. My practice is approximately 75% breast cancer. I have 25 years of experience treating breast cancer and I have often seen and treated significant skin reactions from radiation for breast cancer. The skin reaction depends upon whether or not there is an intact breast or whether the treatment is to the chest wall after mastectomy. It also depends on the radiation dose, the patient’s anatomy, and if chemotherapy has been delivered. Generally, we treat them when they arise until they have resolved.