Your Views: Breast cancer patients should know all treatments

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To the editor:

The month of October is dedicated to honoring women across the country affected by breast cancer and raising awareness in hopes of diminishing its prevalence. At the National Breast Center in Alexandria, my team and I are dedicated to this cause year-round.

Women in the Washington D.C. area have among the nation’s highest incidence and mortality rates from breast cancer and are often unaware of the range of treatment options available – information all women deserve. I wanted the chance to make a difference in the lives of these women.

In 2012, I founded the National Breast Center, along with the National Breast Center Foundation in 2014, with the goal of improving access to transparent, informative care in the area. The foundation aims to eliminate barriers preventing women from getting proper screening, diagnosis and education about breast cancer, including those who are underinsured or uninsured.

In the U.S., approximately one in eight women will develop invasive breast cancer during the course of her lifetime. More women with a family history of breast cancer are also undergoing genetic testing which can identify individuals whose lifetime risk of developing breast cancer can be more than 70 percent. In either scenario, there are now techniques that allow for mastectomy and same-day reconstruction with the goal of returning to a normal, routine lifestyle as soon as possible.

This approach to reconstruction is a great advance in technique, but poses the potential for major risks including infection and skin necrosis, the breakdown of tissue due to poor blood flow, leading to wounds that never heal. Skin necrosis requires additional surgeries to remove the damaged tissue and repeat reconstruction, extending the time spent in surgery and recovery, delaying the woman’s goal of returning to a normal life.

Technological advancements in the breast cancer field have made it possible to avoid these risks, but are not routinely offered as an option when considering treatment. In my clinic, roughly 80 percent of even affluent, educated women in our area are unaware of important options that are proven to be useful in treating breast cancer.

It is important for women with breast cancer to be presented with all choices in every phase of care and to be encouraged to explore what’s right for them. There are many options that result in better clinical outcomes, shorter treatment times, fewer side effects and a quicker return to a normal life.

As part of my efforts to provide the best treatment options, I began using Stryker SPY-PHI technology for breast cancer surgery to ensure safer immediate breast reconstruction.

SPY technology uses fluorescence imaging technology which allows us to better visualize blood flow to the skin during mastectomy and immediate reconstruction, leading to a better chance of tissue survival. SPY-PHI gives access to real-time, reliable information, reducing complications and resulting in more successful surgeries and better options for patients.

The National Breast Center is leading the way in implementing SPY-PHI. Taking advantage of advancements like this is among the many ways we continuously work to educate women, increase access to care and implement innovative technology for breast cancer treatments, giving women all of the options they deserve.

-Dr. David Weintrit, Alexandria

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