Innovation in breast cancer treatment isn’t always dramatic.

For Carla Purcell of Brantford, the best possible treatment for her breast cancer included radiation therapy. To do that, she needed to know when to breathe in and hold it. But Purcell is deaf.

The breathe and hold technique moves the heart safely out of the way of the radiation. A radiation therapist tells you remotely when to take a breath and hold it. Clearly, that wasn’t going to work for Purcell. And because the radiation therapist cannot be in the room during the treatment, using touch and sight or turning something on and off inside the room were not options.

Michele Cardoso is a radiation therapist specializing in breast cancer at the Juravinski Cancer Centre. Cardoso was determined to make sure Purcell’s disability did not prevent her receiving the treatment. She was on the lookout for ways around the patient’s deafness. When Cardoso told her husband Byron about the problem, he surprised her with a solution from their own home.

It’s an Anywhere Switch by Leviton that uses wireless radio frequency transmitters to turn lights on and off from two locations. Using it meant Cardoso could communicate with Purcell from outside the treatment room, making it possible for the patient to use the breathe and hold technique to optimize her radiation therapy.

“My thinking was that there had to be a way,” Cardoso says. “We just had to be a bit more creative about it.”

Not so dramatic, but certainly innovative. And it made a huge difference to a patient with breast cancer.