Blog for a Cause: Breast Cancer Awareness

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October is here! That means cooler weather, a crispness in the air, cozy sweaters, and most importantly (for my blog anyway) baking! October also brings a wave of pink in its midst: pink ribbons, pink labels, pink wrappers, everything pink because October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

I’m fortunate to have a dear friend who is a surgical oncologist. I’ve mentioned her before (Codename: Candelabra). Candelabra is currently interviewing across the nation for breast fellowships at different cancer treatment centers. She recently had to make the decision on whether to apply for surgical fellowships that involve cancer research throughout the entire body or focusing on surgical fellowships specifically for breast cancer. She has chosen the latter, and I thought that my post today would give some insight from her medical professional perspective.

Q: What makes treating breast cancer different than other types of cancer in the body?
A: In my opinion, the collaborative nature of the treatment team really stands apart with breast cancer teams. The surgical oncologist, who is involved from the very beginning, will meet with the other members of the team, such as the radiologist and pathologist, as much as she would meet with the patient herself. The lines of communication are not only open between doctor and patient, but constantly flowing amongst the treatment team itself.

Q: I understand you have a background in public health. How does having an M.P.H. affect your treatment approach?
A. Having that background directly correlates to the preventative approach I try and teach my patients when I am called in to do a consult. While many of my patients are coming to me because of something they found in their breast on their own or through an abnormal mammogram, early screening and detection is the key to fighting and ultimately eliminating the cancer. This is easily done through self-breast exams and regular mammograms once women reach the age of forty (40) or earlier if the woman has a history of breast cancer in her family.

Q: You mentioned communication between the surgical oncologist and the patient earlier. What have you encountered during your practice that would help doctors better communicate with breast cancer patients?
A: During my residency, I was on a research team that designed a “virtual patient” program that would help clinicians better elicit answers from patients who might not be able to clearly express symptoms of breast cancer. This training tool incorporated a physical representation of a patient (similar to a mannequin) programmed with specific symptoms and common answers to questions, which were recorded with actual human voices. With this tool, doctors could physically interact with a “patient” while performing an exam, asking questions and actually receiving answers. This not only gets the clinician comfortable with asking the questions, but also allows them to work on their patient communication skills. This is very important when it comes to breast cancer because most women are scared, nervous or unsure of themselves during the early stages of detection.

Q: Thank for your time and answers, Candelabra! And, good luck on your interviews!
A: Thank you!

For more information on breast cancer and prevention, please visit the American Cancer Society website and speak to your doctor about any questions or concerns.

For more blogs discussing breast cancer awareness, please visit Blog for a Cause.


5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Erin
    Oct 13, 2010 @ 11:00:18

    Thank you for doing this interview! I was just thinking that I hope someone interviews an oncologist for the meme. I’ll post the link up on Monday if you want to link up then.

  2. Sheri Carpenter
    Oct 13, 2010 @ 12:07:38

    Absolutely Awesome Post. Thank you so much for sharing this. Stopping by from Blog for a Cause. I am so happy to be a part of this group.

  3. Neya
    Oct 14, 2010 @ 13:29:44

    Dear Candelabra, I waited for you this weekend or was it last weekend? I know that you were really busy. I need you to do my sk_ _ tag_ . Thank you for thinking about us women. I’m scheduled for a mammogram – hopefully everything will be OKAY. Sorry I missed you once again. Keep up the good work and keep in touch!!!!!!

  4. Laura
    Oct 18, 2010 @ 11:28:24

    Get interview. I know so many who have won & lost their battle with breast cancer. It is such a horrible disease.

  5. Kelli
    Oct 22, 2010 @ 16:36:31

    I too missed you Candelabra and hope to you see you next time! Way to rock for girls for “Our Girls”!! Great interview…keep up the great work!

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