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Publications

Thinking pink for breast cancer and breast health

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For Molly, pink was not a color that made her think of little girls’ bedrooms. It reminded her of breast cancer awareness and her own mother’s successful fight against the disease.

Because of her family history, Molly paid close attention to her own breast health. She performed monthly self-examinations and went for yearly mammograms. Everything was going smoothly until one morning, at age 53, Molly felt something small and hard in her right breast. Panicked, she called her doctor.

“I kept telling myself that it was a cyst and nothing to worry about,” she recalls. “But after going through mammograms, ultrasounds and finally a biopsy, I heard the words, ‘breast cancer.’ My world collapsed.”

“Receiving a breast cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming,” says Nicole Figueredo, MD, a breast surgeon who is part of the Virtua Fox Chase Cancer Program. “But at Virtua, we have a team of experts who help make the process less daunting. Equipped with the latest technology and research, we work with our navigation and clinical team and the patient to customize the best treatment plan. Together, we can beat this disease and save lives.”

Molly’s roadmap via navigation
“Beating cancer is tough enough,” says Lisa Shalkowski, RN, BSN, director of oncology services at Virtua. “We make it easier by providing a patient navigator, a registered nurse who connects patients with cancer specialists, keeps track of appointments, offers information and education about their condition and provides clinical and emotional support.”

A small victory
Thanks to Virtua’s Access Center navigator, Molly got an appointment with a breast surgeon the same week that she was diagnosed. She walked away from her first surgical appointment with a small victory – the cancer was caught early because of her regular breast care.

“Molly was an excellent candidate for breast conserving therapy, which involves removing only the tumor cells from the breast and checking the sentinel lymph nodes,” says Dr. Figueredo.

To ensure all the cancer cells are destroyed, Molly’s surgeon recommended follow-up radiation and hormone therapy and referred her to the nurse navigator to help her take the next steps in treatment. This time, the navigator helped Molly find a Virtua radiation oncologist, who is an expert in advanced accelerated partial breast radiation, and close to Molly’s home.

“Receiving radiation therapy closer to home eliminates a lot of unnecessary stress for the patients and their families,” says David Lowther, MD, medical director of the Virtua Fox Chase Cancer Center (VFCCC) in Washington Township and a member of Fox Chase Cancer Center’s department of radiation oncology.

He continues: “We offer the same technology in Washington Township as the city’s academic medical centers. And along with the expertise of the VFCCC Radiation Oncology team in working with this equipment, patients can substantially benefit from receiving treatment in their own backyard."

The family connection
VFCCC also offers personalized genetic counseling and genetic testing by a nurse or counselor for those at risk for breast cancer due to a family or personal medical history.

“Those at risk can either choose genetic testing or follow a cancer prevention plan that includes aggressive screenings. The choice is a personal one and entirely up to the individual,” says Bridget LeGrazie, MSN, RN, AOCN, APNC, manager of Virtua’s Genetic Risk Assessment Program.

Priya Gor, MD, MSCE, Virtua medical oncologist at the VFCCC, continues: “Due to new cancer screening guidelines, Virtua now encourages people whose second and third degree relatives have a history of breast or ovarian cancer to seek genetic counseling.”  

Virtua offers the latest Clinical Trials on new treatments for patients with cancer. For current trials, call 1-888-VIRTUA-3 or visit www.virtua.org/clinical-trials.