SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Women facing radiation treatment for breast cancer may soon have another option. The hope is, that it will reduce the side effects.

“I came home from work and got a phone call saying I had cancer,” said Mary Ellen Reyelts.

In March, Mary Ellen found her breast cancer early, almost by luck.

“Because of my age, I thought ‘I’m not going to have a mammogram,’ but I was busy and forgot to cancel,” Mary Ellen said.

The mammogram found a small tumor. Mary Ellen’s treatment included surgery and radiation.

She and her husband Loren live in Hull, Iowa, about an hour from Sioux Falls.

Her doctor suggested she enroll in a clinical trial for her radiation. Instead of being spread out over two to six weeks, patients in the trial have 5 radiation sessions in a week. Besides a little fatigue, Mary Ellen says the treatment was easy and painless for her.

Loren says they would have done whatever it takes, but for Mary Ellen, the abbreviated radiation regimen meant less time thinking about being sick and more time indulging in her passion. Quilting.

“She’s been quilting, quilting up a storm,” said Loren.

Loren says the 5 treatments also saved them money on gas

“When we were going, it was over four dollars, we had a big gas bill that month, but yeah we’d still be doing it yet if it was longer,” said Loren.

Dr. Ryan Nowack came up with the plan. As a Radiation Oncologist, he has seen the strain and expenses longer treatment programs can take on patients.

“And we are hoping basically it’s going to be more convenient for patients and hopefully get a better cosmetic outcome than what we used to see with our whole breast treatment,” Nowack said.

Dr. Nowack says they already know the five treatments are effective, but this clinical trial has a different goal.

“Really, this trial is looking at whether or not we are going to improve cosmetic outcome by shortening the course and treating it with a little bit lower dose.

Side effects often include swelling, skin irritations and fatigue. Dr. Nowack says this treatment is for women with smaller, low-grade tumors.

For Mary Ellen, the shorter radiation schedule gave her more time to focus on her passion. Friends family and the quilting community in Northwest Iowa will be happy to know.

“I’m cancer free,” said Mary Ellen.

Anyone interested in taking part in clinical studies in Sioux Falls and Fargo should talk with their doctor.