Together We Can -- Newsletter of the Joan Karnell Cancer Center

Fall 2003

Technological Advancements in Treatment of Breast Cancer
PET Scan Techonology
Every Step of the Way
Knowledge is Power
Supportive Care Programs for Women with Breast Cancer
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Technological Advancements in the Surgical Treatment of Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is the most common malignancy in North America and Europe,with more than 200,000 cases of breast cancer diagnosed in the United States in 2001. Researchers and physicians are pushing the forefront of science to discover innovative ways and advancements in treating breast cancer. Two of the latest surgical technologies include lumpectomy with a sentinel node biopsy and skin-sparing mastectomy.

A lumpectomy involves the surgical removal of a cancerous lump (or tumor) in the breast in addition to a small percentage of the surrounding noncancerous breast tissue. Lumpectomy, a type of breast conserving therapy, is an option for women with small or localized breast cancers since it enables the patient to maintain a large percentage of their breast after surgery. The lumpectomy must be followed up with radiation treatment to ensure that any remaining cancer cells are destroyed in addition to being a preventative measure against any recurring cancer cells.

In addition to the lumpectomy, a sentinel node biopsy is performed. “The theory is if you can find the main draining lymph node, remove it and have it tested very carefully, it will be representative of all lymph nodes,” says Dr. Dahlia Sataloff. This means instead of having to remove two thirds of a patient's lymph nodes, the removal of only one is necessary. As a result, the patient is less likely to experience lymphedema, a common side effect involving swelling of the arm.

Radical mastectomies, or removal of the entire breast tissue, muscle and skin, once considered the main treatment option for breast cancer patients are rarely performed today. Today, the most common form of mastectomy is the modified radical mastectomy where the entire breast, nipple/areolar region and axillary lymph nodes are removed or a total mastectomy and sentinel node biopsy.

Breast reconstruction is often a possibility for the majority of breast cancer patients following a mastectomy. If the patient chooses, a plastic surgeon would be available at the time of mastectomy to perform breast reconstructive surgery. If the patient is an appropriate candidate, skin-sparing mastectomy can be performed

With this procedure,“Most of the skin is spared, leaving an envelope of skin in which the breast can be reconstructed to look almost indistinguishable from a normal breast,” says Dr. Sataloff. For the breast cancer patient this procedure provides an alternative that did not exist ten years ago.

Comprehensive Care For Our Patients
The Joan Karnell Cancer Center offers progressive, comprehensive care for numerous forms of cancer. Our physicians, nurses and staff are extremely knowledgeable about cancer prevention, education, screening, research, diagnosis, treatment and support.

To ensure optimal treatment, the Cancer Center has several distinct groups of clinicians who review all cases in which a tumor has been diagnosed. One of these groups is The Breast Cancer Tumor Board. This Board is a weekly multi-disciplinary conference to discuss all recent cases of breast cancer at the Joan Karnell Cancer Center.

The Board consists of medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, surgeons, radiologists, pathologists, oncologic nursing staff, residents and medical students. The Board reviews each new case and then treatment and trial options are discussed. Not only is this an educational tool for the group but this professional collaboration also enables the physician to determine the best course of treatment for the patient.

For more information about the latest surgical advancements for the treatment of breast cancer at the Joan Karnell Cancer Center at Pennsylvania Hospital, call 1-800-789-PENN (7366). You can also request an appointment online.


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