LAKELAND, Fla. — A podcast that started as a study tool for students has also become a way for Keiser University Professor Erin Hardin to continue her work raising awareness about breast cancer prevention and treatment.

What You Need To Know

  • Erin Hardin, director of the radiation therapy program at Keiser University's Lakeland campus, launched her "Study Radiation Therapy with Erin" podcast in May

  • It started as a study tool to help students preparing for exams

  • Hardin said she also uses the podcast to spread awareness about breast cancer prevention and early detection

  • The inspiration behind Hardin's career in radiation therapy is her Aunt Sheila, who passed away from breast cancer in 2007

"This is time to 'Study Radiation Therapy with Erin'. Let's go!" said Hardin as she recorded a recent episode.

Hardin is the director of the radiation therapy program at Keiser University's Lakeland campus. She said the idea for the podcast came from a student who was preparing for her board exam. According to Hardin, the student told her she wished there was a way she could study while driving. 

Around 300 people have helped episodes rack up 3,000 listens since she launched in May.

"The feedback has been phenomenal, and not just from my students - actually, from students all over the world. I have a lot of students in Canada and Australia who listen, as well," Hardin said.

The podcast was created as a study tool but goes beyond the textbook.

"This brings us to our number one goal in radiation therapy: we want to destroy the cancer cells, but we don't want to destroy our patients in the process," Hardin said while recording.

While the idea came from a student, the inspiration behind all of Hardin's work in radiation therapy is personal.

"It all comes back to a special person in my life, my Aunt Sheila," Hardin said.

Hardin said her aunt, Sheila Fitzgerald, was diagnosed with breast cancer after watching an episode of "Oprah" about self-screening. Hardin was in middle school at the time.

"I remember her always being positive and making jokes all the time about when she cut her hair. She was so excited. She's like, 'Look at how much I look like my son, Ryan. Now, I really look like Ryan,'" Hardin remembered. "She was always so happy, even until her very last day."

Fitzgerald died in 2007 at 45 years old. Since then, Hardin has participated in events to support research, donated her hair five times to make wigs for cancer patients, and got her degree in radiation therapy and her master's in healthcare administration.

"When I saw a career that I can help kill cancer, that I can help with the cure, that's what I wanted to do the rest of my life," Hardin said.

On top of now teaching others who want to work in the field, Hardin said her podcast helps her spread awareness about prevention. She said she tells listeners avoiding alcohol, eating a healthy diet, and exercising regularly can help reduce the risk of breast cancer.

"People don't realize a lot of times that obesity is highly linked to estrogen exposure, and breast cancers are a hormone-driven tumor. So, by decreasing obesity by taking care of our health, we can decrease our risk for breast cancer," Hardin said.

Hardin said her aunt's cancer was found in later stages, and she wants to inspire others to make those lifestyle changes and stay on top of recommended screenings.

"When I told Ryan I was coming here to talk with you guys today, he was so happy because he's like, 'Maybe somebody will watch you on TV and do the same thing and find it earlier,'" she told Spectrum News, referring to how her aunt discovered her cancer.

The American Cancer Society offers more information and resources on breast cancer and prevention.