Tag Archives: Breast Cancer

Breast Cancer Survivors Find Latest Reconstruction Techniques Close to Home

If you saw Becky Kriger and Tiffany Becker together at dinner or strolling along the West Columbia Riverwalk, you’d probably guess they’re best friends. They call each other breast friends. That’s because Becky and Tiffany met while getting chemotherapy together. Both were diagnosed and began treatment for breast cancer before their 30th birthdays.

Although breast cancer is the most common cancer diagnosis, it’s still rare in young women. Most cases — 93% — are diagnosed in women over age 40. Becky, a chemical engineer, was 25 when she found the lump in her breast. Tiffany, a surgical technician at Lexington Medical Center, shared her symptoms with a co-worker who urged her to see a surgeon. The same day, Tiffany contacted Lexington Surgical Associates, a Lexington Medical Center physician practice, where her tumor was diagnosed. Within days, a biopsy confirmed it was cancer. Neither Tiffany nor Becky had genetic markers or a strong family history of breast cancer.

Hear what they say about their experience with breast cancer in this video.

 

Although breast cancer is common, each case is as unique as the woman. When Tiffany told her friends about her diagnosis, one of the first to offer help was Todd S. Lefkowitz, MD, FACS, a surgeon at Lexington Plastic Surgery, a Lexington Medical Center physician practice. Tiffany knew Dr. Lefkowitz from working together at the hospital.

“He texted me right away and asked me what I needed,” Tiffany said. “I told him, ‘I want you to fix me!’” After doing her own research, Becky also chose Dr. Lefkowitz for her breast reconstruction.

Dr. Todd Lefkowitz

“A common myth women bring to the first consultation is that their situation is like their mother’s or their friend’s,” Dr. Lefkowitz said. “What they may not realize is that the options we have for breast reconstruction are fairly diverse. What may work really well for one person isn’t a good option for another.”

For some time, surgeons have started breast reconstruction during the mastectomy by placing a device to expand breast tissue under the pectoral muscle. After several in-office procedures to expand the tissue over time, the expander is later surgically replaced with a permanent implant.

A more recent advancement is to perform implant-based reconstruction above the pectoral muscle — a much less painful and prolonged process.

“This technique eliminates a potential source for infection and complication. We’re trying to replace like with like; the mastectomy surgeon took out tissue above the muscle, so let’s put the implant in the same place,” he said.

Dr. Lefkowitz said the movement to go direct-to-implant and skip the expander is another possibility. “We can often put in an implant at the time of mastectomy, instead of a tissue expander. Being able to wake up from surgery and already having a breast that is rebuilt can be very emotionally uplifting for women,” he said.

There are aesthetic advancements as well, such as using the natural crease beneath the breast for an incision to reduce scar visibility, and keeping the natural nipple when the tissue is cancer-free. “The overall techniques of reconstruction are becoming better and better,” he said.

Breast cancer reconstruction works best when it’s integrated with the cancer treatment process. “We try to get patients in to see us before a full treatment plan is finalized, so they can understand the entire process,” Dr. Lefkowitz said. That’s because cancer treatment itself can complicate reconstruction. Radiation can cause changes in the breast tissue that must be addressed after treatment is complete. But chemotherapy can take place before and after mastectomy, and it may continue during and after reconstruction.

Tiffany (left) and Becky (right)

“If there’s a way to streamline the process — to save everyone time, pain and effort — in a safe and effective manner, that’s the way we want to go,” he said.

Streamlining the reconstruction process requires careful attention to the individual. For example, Becky was able to have over-the-muscle implants. Both women have temporary, air-filled breast implants until they complete radiation treatments. After recovery, Dr. Lefkowitz will exchange them for permanent, silicone-filled implants. “That’s really new,” Tiffany said.

Tiffany says her knowledge of doctors and procedures at work left no doubt in her mind about seeking local cancer treatment and reconstructive surgery. Dr. Lefkowitz welcomes informed patients who are advocates for their own health and lifelong well-being. Becky, who moved to the Columbia area just three years ago from Wisconsin, did her research before selecting her surgeons. “I shopped around, and it seems like he did all the modern techniques. And I liked him — he’s funny.”

For his part, Dr. Lefkowitz welcomes knowledgeable patients who come through his door. “We encourage patients to educate themselves about the process and understand they’re a vital part of it,” he said. “It’s patient-driven. People who find their way to my office are emotionally invested in the way they look and feel. Reconstruction is a large part of the healing process — whether they’re women in their 20s or all the way up to their 70s and 80s.”


Join Lexington Medical Center on October 17 for “Women’s Night Out,” a silent auction, dinner and fashion show honoring breast cancer survivors and their families. Visit LMCFoundation.com to purchase tickets.

Elastography Helps Doctors Detect Breast Cancer

Elastography is a new way doctors at Lexington Medical Center are working to figure out if a suspicious mass in a woman’s breast is cancer. Creating colorful images that look like doppler weather radar, the technology is an extra tool in the toolbox of cancer detection. Learn about it from Dr. Beth Siroty-Smith of Lexington Radiology Associates in this story from WIS-TV.


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LexMed.com/Cancer

Cancer Gets Personal When Doctor Becomes the Patient

In her 22 years as an emergency medicine physician in Lexington Medical Center’s Emergency department, Debbie Simpson, MD, has seen it all.

“I’ve seen a lot of people go through a lot of things. It makes you appreciate the priorities in life,” she said.

As part of her job, Dr. Simpson refers patients who need follow-up care to other doctors after they leave the ER. That’s how she first crossed paths with Steve Madden, MD, oncologist with Lexington Oncologydr-madden-and-deborah-simpson, a Lexington Medical Center physician practice.

“Debbie would call me about admitting cancer patients to the hospital from the ER,” Dr. Madden said.

While Dr. Madden has become accustomed to Dr. Simpson’s referrals over the years, there was no way he could have imagined that this healthy, energetic woman would be calling his office on behalf of herself.

That’s because Dr. Simpson was diagnosed with breast cancer after a routine mammogram. The woman who was used to giving life-saving care to patients for more than two decades in the ER was now the one who needed help.

“I didn’t wear my hospital badge when I visited the doctor, or waited for this test or that test,” Dr. Simpson said. Instead, she simply tried to be a patient. “It made me appreciate everything all of our patients go through when we send them for tests.”

Scans and biopsies revealed that Dr. Simpson had two tumors, but her health problems didn’t stop there. Dr. Madden did additional testing to make sure they had a full picture of what was going on inside Dr. Simpson’s body. That’s when he discovered that she also had renal cancer.

Over the next year, Dr. Simpson underwent multiple surgeries including a lumpectomy, a hysterectomy and kidney removal. After all of that, Dr. Simpson endured chemotherapy and radiation.

“She never complained,” Dr. Madden said. “It’s her faith, really. She is solid.”

It wasn’t always easy, but Simpson finished her last radiation treatment over a year ago. Her hair returned after she lost it during chemotherapy, and her long-term prognosis is good. In true Dr. Simpson form, she prefers to focus on the positive side.

“Being a mother makes me a better doctor,” she said. “Life experiences make me a better doctor. My husband died of a heart attack at 42; that was almost 11 years ago. I feel like these things shape you, then you can relate to what your patients and their families are feeling,” Dr. Simpson said.

Ideally, Dr. Madden would like to see all of his patients get to spend more time with their families. He’d like parents to see their sons or daughters get married or their children graduate from college.

“You don’t treat the disease; you treat the whole person,” Dr. Madden said.

In this age of computers and technology, he has made it his mission to keep the personal part of medicine front and center.

“That’s a blessing I get from the patient. It’s a two-way street. They appreciate us helping and all of that, but everyday, someone says something that lifts me,” Dr. Madden said. “We are definitely in this fight together.”

LexMedCancer.com
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