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New Directions

Issue: Fall

Advanced Treatment Options Help Breast Center Patients Stay in Control of Their Lives

Pamela Wright, M.D.
When Connie Greene, a single mother of four from Germantown, was diagnosed with breast cancer in early 2012, she sought care at the Suburban Hospital Breast Center. The 45-year-old Greene met with Breast Center Director and breast surgeon Dr. Pamela Wright to discuss options. Because she presented with a large and advanced tumor, Greene was not a candidate for lumpectomy. Surgery at this point for Greene would mean a mastectomy. But Dr. Wright had an idea that would allow the patient to undergo a less invasive surgery. She presented Greene’s case at a bi-weekly meeting of the Breast Center’s multi-disciplinary team.

The team members, comprising medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, pathologists, oncology nurses and other cancer specialists, meet to review radiology films, test results and to discuss treatment options for Breast Center patients. “We believe the team approach is crucial to the comprehensive care of the patient,” says Dr. Wright. “It is important for us to have a plan that we all agree on so that the patient feels confident that her care team is on the exact same page.”

Dr. Wright and the team recommended that Greene undergo chemotherapy first with the idea that it would shrink the tumor. “Since Connie would need to have chemotherapy regardless, we believed this was a good approach,” says Dr. Wright. “If it were successful, then there would be a good chance we could preserve her breast.”

The strategy worked. The tumor was all but gone by the time Greene had a lumpectomy this past July. “It was the absolute right course for me,” says Greene. “It was important for me to know that the cancer was shrinking and leaving my body…and it did!” According to Dr. Wright, the tumor responded so well to chemotherapy that she was able to perform a small lumpectomy that left the patient with an excellent cosmetic result.

“Some patients still require or desire mastectomy,” says Dr. Wright. “With newer surgical techniques such as nipple sparing and skin sparing mastectomy with immediate breast reconstruction, we have dramatically improved cosmetic results. In Connie Greene’s case, it was nice that she had options.”

Greene, who recently completed treatment including radiation therapy, is doing well and looking forward to returning to work as a water exercise instructor and to simply enjoying her family.

Patient Connie Greene, her daughter, Meghan and Becky Trupp, RN, oncology nurse navigator, ham it up during an appointment at the Suburban Hospital Breast Center. The navigator provides resources and guidance for everything from appointment scheduling and insurance questions to helping with transportation and child care, so patients can focus on their treatment. Greene says, “At times when I’m alone inside my head and thoughts make me crazy, Becky brings me back and suggests ways that I can focus on things concrete and positive.”

Both women are featured in a video produced by the National Cancer Institute about Oncology Nurse Navigators.

You can see the video below.

To Learn more | Go to suburbanhospital.org/breastcenter

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