“Treat each patient individually with care, expertise and professionalism exemplified by our team of Board Certified physicians.”
This is the philosophy of the Breast Care Center (BCC) at Slocum-Dickson Medical Group (SDMG) in New Hartford. Established in 2005, SDMG defines their comprehensive, team-based approach to breast care as “unparalleled in the Mohawk Valley.” The Breast Care Center convenes the many medical disciplines that collaborate to provide a patient with comprehensive care, from early detection to breast reconstruction, all “under one roof” so to ensure early detection, ease of access and expeditious care.
The Breast Care Center presents an informative website dealing directly with the issues and areas of breast care through the SDMG main site, with several sections summarized below. Visit the Breast Care Center website at www.sdmg.com/breast-care-center.
Central to the goals of the Breast Care Center, focused on easy access and expeditious care, is early detection. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are two distinct strategies to promote early detection.
Early Diagnosis is the recognition of symptomatic cancer at an early stage.
Symptoms to look for that could be consistent with breast cancer and allow for early detection, according to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, are not limited to, but include: a change in how the breast or nipple look or feel; a lump or thickening in or near the breast or underarm area; a change in skin texture or an enlargement of pores in the skin of the breast (described by some as similar to the look of an orange peel); and any lump in the breast or underarm. Note that, while these symptoms could be signs of breast cancer, they do not always indicate the disease, so it is important when detecting them to seek the evaluation of a physician.
Benign breast lumps
Not all lumps found in the breast are cancer, according to the Breast Care Center. In fact, the majority of lumps detected in breast tissue are not cancer. But it is critical when discovering a lump to have it checked by a doctor as soon as possible. Benign lumps are often caused by fibrocystic changes in the breast, where fibrosis refers to excessive formation of scar-like connective tissue; cysts are fluid-filled sacs. Women who experience fibrocystic changes can have symptoms such as breast swelling and pain. Breasts can feel lumpy and there may even be a “clear or slightly cloudy” discharge from a nipple. These benign lumps – two common types are known as fibroadenomas and papillomas – are actually very common. They do not spread from the breast to other parts of the body. It may or may not be necessary to remove such benign lumps, where that decision should be discussed between and patient and her physician.
Women are encouraged to perform monthly breast self-exams so that they will have context to notice changes and detect them as soon as possible and should consult their physician to learn how to properly perform the self-exam.
Screening is the identification of asymptomatic cancer in otherwise and apparently healthy people.
While screening is a critical strategy to early detection, to date, less one half of breast cancers are identified and diagnosed during the screening process alone, even by the most effective screening programs. So, early diagnosis based on symptoms should be a priority, with vigilance to recognizing symptoms and seeking care.
Screening can include monthly breast self-exams, annual mammograms and ultrasound analysis.
Early detection of breast cancer is considered to all but ensure better outcomes, where when breast cancer is diagnosed in a localized stage (has not spread to other areas of the body), according to NBCF, the five-year survival rate is effectively 99%.
A team approach
The Breast Care Center at SDMG consists of nine Board Certified physicians and a qualified staff, including physical and occupational therapists, as well as clinical and educational support.
James F. Cesare, MD, Board Certified by the American Board of Surgery, is the Director of the Breast Care Center. His team consists of radiologists, oncologists, hematologists, a plastic and reconstructive surgeon, a physical and occupational therapist and a family nurse practitioner who specializes in a holistic approach to the patient and their support network and encourages an integrative approach. It is a group of medical professionals who monitor patients during regular screenings and collaborate to care for patients facing the challenge of breast cancer.
Services provided by the Breast Care Center
Residents of the Mohawk Valley would begin their relationship with the Breast Care Center either with an initial exam and annual screening to monitor breast health or consultation regarding the detection of symptoms related with breast cancer. Services related to screening including a comprehensive breast exam and evaluation and a screening mammography. When performing diagnostic analysis, services include diagnostic mammography, computer-aided detection, ultrasound, CT scan, MRI, galactogram/ductogram, stereostactic biopsy, ultrasound-guided biopsy, and bone density testing. The center also offers genetic testing to patients where intake indicates related risk factors. The BCC offers in-patient breast surgery and current radiation and chemotherapy treatment.
Physical and Occupational Therapy
The Breast Care Center has a physical and occupational therapist on staff who specializes in the rehabilitation and training of breast cancer patients and the center features a state-of-the-art physical and occupational therapy center.
Full Reconstruction Services
Whether a patient has had a lumpectomy or a mastectomy, an important part of their physical and emotional journey is restoring the appearance of the breast or breasts. The Breast Care Center has a plastic surgeon who specializes in breast reconstruction, either immediate or delayed, with services including breast and skin sparing and breast augmentation and reduction procedures. The BCC also offers prosthesis management, fitting, a full line of prosthetics and support garments and the latest prosthetic wear.
The team at the Breast Care Center recognize the need to address all aspects of a patient’s life during their treatment journey, and so offer extensive patient support services. The BCC promises physician availability to patients “24/7.” They provide clinical support to both patients and their families. Educational materials are made available so patients feel fully informed as they guide and engage in their treatment; these could include seminars and conferences. Nutritional support is offered so patients can follow a diet optimal to their health and wellness during treatment and beyond.
Breast Patient Support Group
Finally, with the understanding that there is no substitute for the empathy and support that patients who are facing the challenge of breast cancer can provide to each other, the Breast Care Center hosts a support group for its patients, held the first Tuesday of every other month from 6 pm to 7 pm at the Breast Care Center.
If breast cancer is diagnosed, most patients will address it with surgery. There are two common surgeries performed to resolve breast cancer; a lumpectomy - a breast-conserving surgery that removes only the area of the breast identified as malignant and the “margin” of local tissue surrounding it – and a mastectomy, where one or both breasts are removed entirely.
Radiation and/or chemotherapy treatment may be integrated into a given treatment plan. In almost all cases where a lumpectomy is performed, post-surgical radiation therapy is prescribed.
Breast cancer in men
While very rare – making up only 1% of diagnosed cases of breast cancer each year – men do get breast cancer. According to breastcancer.org, over 2600 men are likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer by the end of 2021, and over 500 men battling breast cancer will die of the disease. The lifetime risk for men of being diagnosed with breast cancer is 1 in 833. Breast cancer surgery for men is called gynecomastia. Men, like women, should be aware of any changes in the breast area and see their doctor is those changes are detected.
Breast Reconstruction Surgery
When women opt to undergo a full or partial mastectomy, the Breast Cancer Center assures them that modern advances in breast reconstruction surgery provide them with “new choices.”
Breast reconstruction restores the appearance of the breast or breasts after a mastectomy and can be a critical piece for patients as they enter the post-treatment and hopefully “cancer-free” stage of their journey. Reconstruction is not an option chosen by all patients undergoing mastectomy. It is an individual and personal decision. Even if a patient chooses to delay breast reconstruction, it is important to consult with both the surgeon and plastic surgeon specialist prior to the mastectomy to discuss options and make choices that will guide the mastectomy surgery itself.
There are several types of surgeries performed to reconstruct the breast. Women can opt to use a breast implant, their own tissue flap – a section of skin, fat and muscle removed from the tummy, back or other area of the body and replaced in the chest - or a combination of the two.
BCC Goals of Breast Reconstruction
• To make the breasts look balanced when wearing a bra;
• To permanently regain breast contour; and
• To give the convenience of not needing an external prosthesis.
While whether to opt for a prosthesis or reconstruction surgery – and whether to opt for immediate or delayed surgery – convenes a multitude of factors and is an individual decision to be made by each patient with the guidance of their physician and the support of their family, the team at the Breast Care Center have found that restoring the breast during surgery – rather than after – often goes a long way toward restoring the patient’s self-confidence and -esteem.
One survivor’s message
A Breast Care Center patient – known as “Cindy” – began what she calls her “emotional journey through the treatment of my breast cancer” with her discovery of a lump and coming to the Breast Care Center for a diagnostic mammogram and biopsy.
Cindy credits the physicians and staff at the BCC with “keeping my spirits high.”
She shares that the BCC team kept her focused “in the right direction,” while taking on the task of informing her primary care physicians to ensure continuity of post-treatment health and wellness.
“I was able to overcome my fears and anxiety and overcome a potentially devastating illness with a very positive outcome,” said Cindy, “thanks to the compassion, understanding and professionalism of Slocum Dickson Medical Group (Breast Care Center).”
The Slocum-Dickson Medical Group Breast Care Center is located at 1729 Burrstone Road, New Hartford, 13413 and can be reached by phone at 315-798-1500. To make an appointment, call 315-798-1436. Hours of operation are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.