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Wednesday, May 21, 2014 - Breast-preserving surgery now common for early-stage cancer

Breast-preserving surgery now common for early-stage cancer

By Mary Martucci, D.O.

As a breast surgical oncologist, I help patients overcome breast cancer every day. One of the most common misconceptions I see with newly-diagnosed patients is the assumption that breast cancer automatically results in the need for mastectomy. Today, particularly for those with early-stage cancer, this is no longer the treatment protocol for most patients thanks to the substantial inroads we have made in combating this disease.

What is “early-stage” breast cancer?

Early-stage breast cancer (Stage I or II) is the most common invasive breast cancer in the U.S.  Stage I breast cancers are smaller than two centimeters and have not spread to the lymph nodes in the armpit (axillary nodes).  Stage II breast cancers are either larger than two centimeters or have spread to the axillary nodes.

In many cases today, these cancers can be surgically removed using three less invasive procedures that preserve the breast and enable the woman to maintain her existing anatomy:

  • Lumpectomy ─  removal of the lump.
  • Quadrantectomy  ─ removal of one quarter (or quadrant) of the breast.
  • Segmental Mastectomy ─ removal of the cancer as well as some of the breast tissue around the tumor and the lining over the chest muscles below the tumor.

Patients who have breast-sparing surgery usually also have lymph nodes under the arm removed to prevent any cancer cells from metastasizing to these nodes in the future. Women who also undergo radiation therapy after these procedures are less likely to have cancer come back in the same breast than women who have breast-sparing surgery without radiation.

Maintain diligent breast health

For the majority of people who do not fall into the high-risk category, simple but consistent breast health diligence can prevent early breast cancer from escalating to more advanced stages requiring more aggressive treatment. Beginning in puberty, women should have a yearly clinical breast examination performed by a gynecologist. The visit should also include simple instruction on how to perform a monthly self-breast exam, performed after the completion of the menstrual cycle. Like any serious disease, early breast cancer diagnosis offers the patient far less invasive treatment options and a vastly improved chance of making a full and lasting recovery.

The Star and Barry Tobias Women’s Health Center at CentraState offers customized female health education; counseling services; disease prevention; diagnosis and treatment provided by a specially-trained, all-female staff. The Center features a breast health specialist who is a public educator on breast diseases and cancer detection. The Center has been named a Breast Imaging Center of Excellence by the American College of Radiology (ACR). In addition to mammography, the Center also offers stereotactic needle biopsybreast needle localization and bone densitometry. The Women’s Health Center at CentraState is located at 901 West Main Street, Freehold. For more information, call (732) 294-2626. To schedule an appointment, call (732) 294-2778 or visit ilovemammograms.com.

Dr. Mary Martucci is a breast surgical oncologist and medical director of The Star and Barry Tobias Women's Health Center at CentraState Medical Center in Freehold. She can be reached by calling the Center at 732-303-5042.