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Moments That Matter: Colleen's Story

Moments That Matter: Colleen's Story

Colleen O., an active 67-year-old retired grandmother, always made sure to get a yearly mammogram. After all, her first job out of college was working at a pathology lab, where she viewed slides showing breast cancer. Even though breast cancer did not run in her family, she took every precaution to stay healthy. 

Having dense breast tissue meant that sometimes Colleen needed to receive a follow-up ultrasound to ensure that she was cancer-free. This year – for the first time —Colleen’s mammogram and ultrasound found cancer.

Since Colleen wears a pacemaker, and her cancer was in her left breast, Leah Gendler, MD, her breast surgeon at Morristown Medical Center, called upon Mona Karim, MD, vice chair of radiation oncology.  

Dr. Karim assured Colleen that she could safely provide radiation treatment while protecting her heart and pacemaker using the AlignRT® radiation system. 

AlignRT uses 3D camera units to monitor a patient’s skin surface and compare it to the ideal position with total accuracy when compared to tattoos and marks. This technique, Surface Guided Radiation Therapy (SGRT), ensures radiation is delivered only when a patient is correctly positioned. AlignRT is non-invasive and non-contact, important for cancer patients with weakened immune systems.

Atlantic Health System’s Morristown Medical Center and Hackettstown Medical Centers are the only hospitals in New Jersey offering tattoo-free, mark-free AlignRT® breast cancer radiation treatment.  The new technology protects the heart when radiating the left breast.


The treatments were easy and painless. I’m glad they caught the cancer early.

Colleen O., AlignRT and DIBH breast cancer radiation therapy patient


“The treatments were easy and painless,” says Colleen. “I’m glad they caught the cancer early.”

Colleen received radiation treatment for five weeks, and each visit took 30 minutes. 

Radiation after lumpectomy is a highly effective treatment for breast cancer.  The left breast, however, leaves the heart vulnerable to radiation exposure, which may lead to cardiac complications.  Morristown Medical Center radiation oncologists use the Deep Inspiration Breath Hold (DIBH) technique to move the heart away from the breast during therapy. Along with AlignRT, breast cancer patients now have additional assurance that their hearts are protected. 

Colleen is healthy, cancer-free, and enjoying life. She is engaged to be remarried and ready to embark on her next exciting chapter.