Tag Archives: Lexington Surgical Associates

Colorectal Cancer Month: Don’t Be Afraid to Talk to Your Doctor About Symptoms

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Colorectal cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in South Carolina. Each year, more than 2,400 South Carolinians are diagnosed with colorectal cancer and approximately 800 die from the disease. But colorectal cancer is also one of the most preventable forms of cancer – and treatable when detected early.

Sometimes, colorectal cancer may not cause symptoms. When symptoms do occur, they may be bleeding, abdominal pain or a change in bowel habits. People with those symptoms should talk to their doctor. It might seem like an embarrassing topic, but as a Lexington Medical Center patient from Gilbert explains in this WIS-TV story, it could save your life.


Dr. Samir Shah of Lexington Surgical Associates, a Lexington Medical Center physician practice, treated Joanne for colorectal cancer.

“Don’t delay having a colonoscopy,” Dr. Shah said. “It’s a painless procedure, and it’s better to be checked than to ignore an issue that could have been preventable and, most importantly, curable.”

A colonoscopy is considered one of the most powerful tools in clinical medicine because of its ability to identify and remove polyps before they become cancerous. Early detection and intervention can reduce mortality from colorectal cancer by up to 90 percent. Unfortunately, only 64 percent of the people in our state age 50 or older report ever being screened.

In general, people should have a colonoscopy at age 50. Patients with a family history of colorectal cancer should talk to their doctor and begin screening earlier.
While genetics may play a role in some colorectal cancer cases, most occur in someone with no family history of the disease. Factors that increase the risk of developing colorectal cancer include tobacco and heavy alcohol use, consumption of red or processed meat, diabetes, obesity and a low-fiber diet.

Lexington Medical Center diagnoses and treats more than 100 cases of colorectal cancer each year. From medical and radiation oncologists to surgeons, our clinicians provide comprehensive care for colorectal cancer. Visit LexMed.com/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.

Real Men Get Breast Cancer

Rodney Harmon is a man’s man. The former high school running back coordinates quality control at Element Electronics in Winnsboro, walking the manufacturing floor with a confident smile. He shows off photos of his three sons, equally enthusiastic about their academic accomplishments and prowess on the gridiron. He works out regularly and often enjoys throwing the football with his son Noah at Caughman Road Park in Hopkins.

Rodney and his son Noah

Rodney and his son Noah

So it’s only natural that his cancer came to light after a bench press bar hit him in the chest. When his left side continued to ache long after the injury should have healed, he moved his annual physical up six months to get it checked out.

“My doctor felt something there. He said, ‘it’s probably nothing,’ — but if I wanted to get it looked at I could,” Rodney said.

Men account for one in every 100 diagnosed cases of breast cancer. While the incidence is much lower in men than women, few know that men are 10 times more likely to die from the disease than women.

But Rodney, 43 at the time, knew he had a family history of breast cancer. His mother, grandmother and grandfather had breast cancer, and all were diagnosed at fairly young ages.
That awareness made a trip to Lexington Medical Center’s breast imaging center a top priority. After the mammogram revealed a suspicious lesion, Rodney received an ultrasound and then a biopsy. The next day, he got the call confirming a stage 2 breast cancer diagnosis. His first call was to his wife Yvette.

“She was stunned to say the least,” he said.

Rodney and Yvette took their sons Sterling, Jordan and Noah out to dinner to break the news. With two children in college and one in middle school, they were concerned about how it would rock the boys emotionally and affect school performance.

Rodney and Noah tossing the football at Caughman Road Park in Hopkins

Rodney and Noah tossing the football at Caughman Road Park in Hopkins

“They had already seen what happens with breast cancer, because of my mother,” Rodney said. “It was almost like I was sitting down and telling them I only have so many months to live. So for me, it became a matter of trying to stay positive and strong. If they see you break down, they break down.”

Rodney’s son Noah was 11 at the time of the diagnosis. The Dent Middle School student remembers crying and worrying that his dad would die. Today, he feels much better and has advice to other children with a parent who has cancer.

“Don’t give up early,” Noah said. “Always pray for whoever it is who has cancer.”

Determined to minimize the impact, Rodney returned to work only a week after surgery. “The important thing for me was getting back to normal,” he said. “Cancer is a disease that if you think you’re beaten, you’re beaten. But I know that with the right mindset, you can get through anything. If your thought process is, ‘this is just a bump in the road,’ and you keep moving, then everything will be all right.”

Myron Barwick, MD, FACS

Myron Barwick, MD, FACS

Rodney’s surgeon was Myron Barwick, MD, FACS, of Lexington Surgical Associates, a Lexington Medical Center physician practice.

“There isn’t a lot of publicity about men having breast cancer, but it does happen and should not be a surprise, Dr. Barwick said. “Men should talk to their doctor about any abnormal lump in the breast just like women do.”

The surgery left a long scar that shows when Rodney works out. “For a little while, you feel disfigured when you go through something like that. But I had a 10-year-old kid with a brain tumor who was looking at my scar, and he said, ‘you look like a superhero.’ If he can say that, then I’m not going to feel bad about it.”

Rodney’s cancer was hormone-receptor positive, like 88 percent of breast cancer cases. That requires him to take estrogen-suppressing medication for five years — resulting in the hot flashes and weight gain women often experience. “I know what that’s all about now,” he said.

Like many women with breast cancer, Rodney found support from co-workers and friends. And far from hiding his experience, Harmon leverages his status. He meets with newly diagnosed men for lunch to talk and answer questions. And he was the only man invited to model in the fashion show at Lexington Medical Center’s Women’s Night Out, the hospital’s annual breast cancer event that honors cancer survivors and their families.

“If it’s going to raise awareness, then my answer is ‘yes,’” he said.

Rodney advises men to get a physical every year as a precaution.

“A real man is one who is not afraid to get checked out, and if something is wrong, not afraid to tell people about it,” he said. “I’m blessed. I’m walking above ground and not lying below it. In the grand scheme of things, everything that happens to you is a chance to learn and help the next person.”