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A Lifeline and Liaison to Compassionate, Expert Breast Health Care

President and CEO of South Nassau Hospital discusses options for those recently diagnosed with breast cancer.

The following is from Joseph A. Quagliata, president and CEO of South Nassau Hospital:

Despite the continued progress that has been made in detecting and treating breast cancer, the reality is that many women will have to deal with the disease. Approximately one woman out of eight will be diagnosed with breast cancer. Whether it happens to herself, a loved one, or a friend or neighbor, a woman is almost certain to experience the tension and dread caused by the diagnosis of breast cancer and the hundreds of questions about what happens next, treatment options, follow-up care and her future.

To ease patients’ fear and fill them with hope and confidence during their breast cancer journey, the Center for Breast Health at the Gertrude & Louis Feil Cancer Center at South Nassau Communities Hospital has established a free patient navigation service to guide them through the entire course of breast cancer treatment.

The patient navigator assists with making informed medical decisions; reinforces education about the cancer diagnosis; communicates with physicians, case managers, family members and others on behalf of the patients; assists with the coordination and scheduling of tests and services; monitors patients’ progress through treatment; and refers patients to support programs and resources. Assistance can even come in the form of facilitating transportation to and from medical visits, arranging for child care during treatment appointments or obtaining an interpreter.

Several studies have shown that nurse navigators improve patient outcomes in cancer care. And this year the Commission on Cancer, part of the American College of Surgeons, issued new standards that will require cancer programs to offer patient navigation services by 2015.

Led by Christine Hodyl, DO, FACS, director of breast health services, the Center for Breast Health provides a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary breast care program, with a full spectrum of clinical and support services, from screening and diagnosis to treatment and counseling.

Dr. Hodyl is a Cancer Liaison Physician to the American College of Surgeons (ACS) Commission on Cancer (CoC). This places Dr. Hodyl among an elite group of approximately 1,600 physicians who are recognized for their leadership in the development of cancer programs and for their expertise in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. South Nassau is one of the 1,400 CoC-accredited cancer programs in the United States and Puerto Rico. Approximately 70 percent of all newly diagnosed cancer patients are treated in these institutions.

A fellow of the American College of Surgeons, Dr. Hodyl is one of the region’s leading specialists in oncoplastic surgery. Oncoplastic surgery is an option for patients with certain tumors, for locations or tumor sizes, which may not have been amenable for breast conservation previously. It is a combination of breast cancer surgery with a cosmetic procedure that eliminates the need for multiple surgeries to expand the breast, and it reduces the risk of complications. Oncoplastic surgery not only hastens a woman’s physical recovery but aids her psychological healing. The technique is safe and effective and offers a satisfying cosmetic result.

When Dr. Hodyl performs a lumpectomy with oncoplastic surgery, the cancerous tissue is removed and healthy tissue is rotated or repositioned, preserving the shape of the breast. For patients who require a removal of the total breast (or a mastectomy), a team approach is used so that the breast is removed while maintaining the overlying skin. During the same procedure, the breast is reconstructed using a prosthetic breast implant or a replacement breast is fashioned using a portion of the patient’s own body fat and muscle.

Dr. Hodyl and the program’s breast health specialists also use targeted surgical techniques that aim to preserve as much of the healthy breast and surrounding areas as possible. This includes sentinel lymph node biopsy and if needed lymph node dissection for early stage breast cancer; single channel balloon brachytherapy techniques; breast-conserving surgery (commonly known as lumpectomy); and mastectomy. After surgery, other treatments such as chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, and/or radiation treatments may be needed.

Recommendations for whole body or "systemic" treatments, such as hormonal therapy, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or a combination of two of the three therapies, may follow either surgical approach. If the patient has early-stage breast cancer, sentinel lymph node biopsy is used as an alternative to traditional lymph node dissection.

In addition to the Center for Breast Health, the Gertrude & Louis Feil Cancer Center incorporates the following specialty cancer care services:

  • South Nassau’s GYN Oncology Department (Valley Stream)
  • South Nassau’s Long Island Gamma Knife® Center (Oceanside)
  • South Nassau’s Center for Prostate Health Program (Oceanside/Valley Stream)
  • South Nassau’s Center for Lung Health (Oceanside)
  • South Nassau’s Radiation Oncology Department (Oceanside and Valley Stream)
  • South Nassau’s Surgical Oncology Department (Oceanside and Valley Stream)
  • Complete Women’s Imaging Center (Oceanside)
  • South Nassau’s PET/CT Service (Oceanside)
  • Office of Clinical Research (Valley Stream)

To schedule a consultation or for more information about the Center for Breast Health or Gertrude & Louis Feil Cancer Center, call 516-632-3350, or visit southnassau.org.

Comments or questions regarding this column can be sent to healthmatters@snch.org.  

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