FORTY FORT, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – More than three million women are living with breast cancer in the U.S. The number of women who’ve died from the disease has steadily declined in the last three decades. You can credit that to early detection and better treatment options.
Many women diagnosed with breast cancer will require some sort of surgery. Eyewitness News Healthbeat Reporter Mark Hiller spoke with a breast cancer surgeon in Forty Fort to discuss modern day options which are giving women more hope.
Options were limited some 30 years ago for surgeons operating on breast cancer patients. “The standard of care was complete removal of the breast to include the underlying muscle and to do a complete axillary lymph node dissection meaning remove all the lymph nodes in the armpit,” said Commonwealth Health Breast Cancer Surgeon Eric Burdge, MD.
Back then, a woman’s chest was left significantly scarred, but Dr. Burdge says his generation of breast cancer surgeons began focusing on preserving as much healthy breast tissue as possible. “We found now that we can just remove the tumor and radiate the breast in what we call breast conservation therapy.”
A partial mastectomy or lumpectomy is smaller in scope and often chosen by the patient when the ratio of tumor-to-breast is not too great. But if there’s just too much cancerous tumor, a full mastectomy is stll usually necessary. Dr. Burdge says regardless of the procedure, there’s one constant. “There’s almost no scenario where reconstruction is not possible.”
When a large lumpectomy is required leaving the breast distorted, the remaining tissue is sculpted to restore a more natural breast shape and appearance. When all of the breast tissue is removed, Dr. Burdge says reconstructive surgeons can use the overlying skin and an implant to reconstruct the breast. He also says there’s even a nipple sparing procedure available. “In this day and age they can reconstruct the nipple with tissue from the thigh or they actually have something: a new technique called three dimensional tattooing where they actually do a three dimensional tattoo which resembles a nipple areola complex.”
Dr. Burdge emphasizes that breast cancer patients should feel empowered by today’s surgical options. He performs his breast cancer surgeries at Wilkes-Barre General Hospital as well as the hospital’s Center for Same Day Surgery.