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The Next Evolution of Breast Cancer Surgery

September 20, 2011

Surgeons’ Teamwork Nets Better Results for Patients 

For women facing breast cancer, consider this: If you were told that the doctors could remove the cancer and leave your breasts looking relatively the same—if not better—after surgery? Would you believe it?

It’s not a myth, according to William Dugoni, M.D., medical director of the Washington Women’s Center. It’s called oncoplasty, an approach to breast cancer surgery that gives patients the best of both worlds—a high cure rate and a better cosmetic outcome.

“When you talk about breast reconstruction, there is no doubt that we are ahead of the game in having a well-trained plastic surgeon who is committed to doing these types of surgeries,” Dr. Dugoni says. “Furthermore, we have done some really state-of-the art reconstructive surgeries, and that’s all part of the treatment at the Washington Women’s Center.

“In the larger scope, oncoplasty is the next step above that. It is relevant to any woman who has breast cancer and requires surgical treatment. With every patient we are focusing on the whole person—her physical wellbeing and her psychological wellbeing and every person needing breast cancer treatment should be approached with the message of: ‘We’re going to cure your cancer and focus on symmetry and your wellbeing.”

Dr. Prasad Kilaru, the medical director of the Washington Center for Wound Healing and Hyperbaric Medicine, is the plastic surgeon responsible for orchestrating the reconstruction immediately after Dr. Dugoni has removed the cancerous tissue.

And according to Dr. Kilaru, patients’ attitudes toward reconstructive surgery have been changing as techniques and technology have improved.

“Patients’ comfort level with the idea of reconstructive surgery has gotten better,” Dr. Kilaru explains. “In the past, reconstructive surgery wasn’t as aesthetically pleasing, but now that the aesthetic results of reconstruction are looking better, more patients are going in that direction.”

Still, the oncoplastic approach goes several steps above traditional reconstructive surgery, in that it focuses on the appearance of both breasts and employs techniques that offer options to lumpectomy and mastectomy candidates, Dr. Dugoni points out.

“Oncoplasty should be an option for every breast cancer patient because the approach is different,” Dr. Dugoni explains. “At minimum, we’re going to make the breast look like it did before, if not better. This approach is about curing the cancer and making both breasts look better.”

The collaborative effort between Dr. Dugoni and Dr. Kilaru, is in its fifth year and the advantages of oncoplasty are coupled with the full array of services and programs offered by the Washington Women’s Center’s.

“The great thing is that the Women’s Center at Washington Hospital is really a collaborative effort,” Dr. Kilaru says. “The Tumor Board meetings are very well attended by physicians in the community and there has been a lot more activity for awareness about evolving treatment options like this one.”

Despite some lingering confusion about oncoplastic surgery and its benefits, Dr. Dugoni is confident that this continuously evolving approach to breast cancer treatment will become the gold standard for most, if not all, women needing breast cancer surgery.

“We all want to have a sense of normalcy,” he says. “And it’s been shown that psychological recovery lends itself to better outcomes. There will always be those that say ‘Nah,’ and that’s okay too. But if the options are there, women in the community should know about them.

“Oncoplastic surgery is another thing the Washington Women’s Center is offering to all patients, and we have the skills and technology if you want the choice.” 

Healing the whole person

InHealth, a Washington Hospital Channel, is now airing a program titled: “Voices InHealth: New Surgical Options for Breast Cancer Treatment” featuring Dr. Dugoni and Dr. Kilaru. InHealth is available on Comcast 78 or watch this show and other current programs online at inhealth.tv

To see an overview of breast health services offered at the Women’s Center, visit http://www.whhs.com/womens-health/breast-health/

 

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